As Easter approaches, many of us are thinking about this man we call Christ. Jesus of Nazareth, Emmanuel. God with us. And what I'm thinking about, particularly as I consider Stations of the Cross and the incredible burden (joyous, but still burden) of leading people intimately through the passion of our Christ, is His face. I'm thinking about what we see when we look at Jesus eye-to-eye.
It's a kind of intimacy we've somehow lost in our present world. Not just with Jesus, but with just about everybody. I've noticed it as I step further and further into the presence ministry. I've noticed it when I take the time to notice it, when I remember that I am keenly aware how much I'm missing it. It's that willingness, and perhaps even the ability, to look someone else in the eye. To see something deeper than the facade of a man's face.
I could tell you what Jesus looks like - olive-toned skin, deep-set eyes, beard. I could say something similar about many of the people I come into contact with on a daily basis, and most of the strangers I've just met. I can tell you what a face looks like. You probably can, too. You can probably tell me about hair color, face shape, a mole on the left cheek or a birthmark over the right eye. You can tell me what a man looks like, and I might even know what you're talking about.
But until we are willing to consciously engage in another man's face, until we embrace that our eyes can see deeper, we will never know why a man looks the way he does. If we don't know that, we don't know the man.
I have always had a bit of an eidetic memory (think: photographic, although that term is not quite accurate). One of the things that has haunted me about this is that, while I may be looking at a person's face while talking with him, it is not until later when that image comes back to my mind that I realize all I missed. This was true in the hospital. Oh, was it true in the hospital. I would walk in and spend some time with a patient and think things went well, but upon later reflection when that patient's face came back into my mind, I would realize in the lines on his face, in the emptiness in her eyes, that I missed something big. That I never went beyond the surface. It gave me something to work on, and it brought me to a place of deeper ministry. I had to be intentional about looking people in the eye. Not just looking at them.
The same is true for so many of us with Jesus. I think if asked, we could come up with a reasonable description of the facade of His face. Just as I mentioned above. Olive-toned skin, deep-set eyes, beard. But when was the last time you saw anything deeper?
Have you looked in His eyes and seen eternity stretching before Him? Do you know that's what He's looking at? Do you understand that's why His eyes appear to be so deep?
Have you seen the kiss of betrayal on His lips? Have you studied the mark of a one-time friend on the most tender of His flesh?
Have you considered His distinctly-Jewish nose? Have you thought about what His heritage means? Not that He was the Son of God, the Promised Messiah, but that He was a Jew? Can you separate the two and understand the profound meaning of man's religion in the Son of Man's life?
Do you see the blood streaming down His brow? Look deeper even into that. Do you see the place where the crowns are pressing into and through His broken flesh? Do you understand the brokenness of the Man who stands before you? Who has stood in place of you?
It is not the facade of a man's face that matters. It's not that you could pick him out in a crowd, that you could point him out in a photograph. Knowing a man's flesh does not bring you to know the man. It is his features that reveal who he is. It is every little line, every little uniqueness, every little bit of meaning infused in his face that tells his story. It is something deeper that reveals his true heart.
This is something I'm working on, daily. To not just look at people as we pass, but to really see them. To look deeper into their face to see their features. To see their weariness and their worries, their life and their love. To see the questions they're asking and the answers they already know. To see that place where fear and faith collide and to see more than a stranger; to discover a story. It's something we have to be intentional about. It is something I have to be intentional about, but I'm working on it.
Starting with Jesus.