He is the image of the invisible God … (verse 15)
Imagine encountering God at a burning bush, hearing his voice reverberating as he commanded you to loosen your sandals and stand, barefoot and humble, on holy ground. The light of that bush would dance on clothing and hands, even as you turned aside, hiding your face for fear of looking directly on the divine glory.
Such was Moses’ response. Yet, years later, yearning for a clearer sighting, he voiced his longing to the Lord, “Show me your glory.” The hand of the Lord covered him, while he declared in Moses’ hearing his self-declaration of character – gracious and compassionate, abounding in love and faithfulness – then, removing his hand, Moses caught sight of his back. But his face he didn’t see.
The yearning, unabated.
What wonder, then, to set eyes on Jesus. This was the disciples’ ongoing experience and privilege. They walked side by side with him, days on end, eating meals across the table, engaging in intimate conversation, directly, face to face. Such wonder! What Moses longed for, the disciples knew.
Paul’s straightforward phrase declares it: “he is the image of the invisible God.”Glory is made visible in the person of Jesus.
The Apostle John understood the wonder. Introducing his own narrative of Jesus’ life and ministry, he reiterates the experience of Old Testament patriarchs and prophets and people, as backdrop to this new revelation: “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known”(John 1:18). Or more simply yet, “We have seen his glory” (John 1:14).
The implication, of course, is the very one Jesus himself kept emphasizing in his teaching: “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). To radiate the glory of the Father, to truly be his image, to so identify with him as to be “one,” requires that he himself be God. Indeed, his name declares it: he is “God with us.”
But further, since he is the “image,” making the invisible God visible to our eyes, then we know God best through the lens of Jesus himself. We see his heart, and it’s the heart of the Father. We watch him stop mid-tracks and give attention to the hemorrhaging woman alone in the crowd, or blind Bartimaeus at the side of the road, or Zacchaeus up a lonely tree, or the leper marginalized by his uncleanness, and as we do we know God. We hear him speak, “Talitha koum,” to the little girl, raising her to life. We see him spit and make healing mud for the eyes of a man born blind. We watch his eyes follow the paralytic lowered from ceiling to floor, then speak words of forgiveness and restoration. In it all, we see Almighty God.
We hear him pointedly identify the festering sin of our hearts (lust and anger and falsehood), or call out hypocrisy, or demand undivided loyalty, or call us to exercise hearts of compassion like his own. We hear the heart of God.
He is the image of the invisible God.
On the night before the cross, when Philip asked him to show them the Father, saying “that will be enough for us,” Jesus said they’d had “enough” already. “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? … Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me”(John 14:9, 11).
So, set eyes on Jesus. We don’t have the privilege of being physically alongside him, as did his disciples. But their eye-witness remembrances, enlivened by the illuminating guidance of the Spirit who leads us into all truth, open our eyes to see him truly.
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3). Yes. Praise his name.
Lord Jesus, I honour you as God, making God known. Thank you for coming in human flesh that we might see what would otherwise remain invisible. Praise you.
Reflect: Choose a story of Jesus. Meditate on it. Name the sightings of God’s character. Give him praise.
Photo by Scott Rodgerson on Unsplash