Frustrated and angry and fearful for their welfare, Paul in Galatians in 3:1 (NJB) hotly rebuked the apostatizing believers with this: “You stupid people in Galatia! After you have had a clear picture of Jesus Christ crucified, right in front of your eyes, who has put a spell on you?”
He found it astonishing that having seen a clear, sharp, focused picture of Jesus that a counterfeit portrait of a nationalist Jesus who brought salvation only to Jews and Jewish proselytes could fool them. If the original picture of Jesus didn’t hold the Galatians it certainly held Paul, or rather, drove Paul, gave him no rest even while it filled him with peace. Some images do that to us. Pictures have such power, but they only have power over us if they have power resident in them.
Charles Simeon turned the eyes and heart of Henry Martyn not only toward God but also toward a life spent in missionary endeavors. Martyn was a gifted linguist and on reaching the Middle East he translated the NT scriptures into Indian, Persian and various dialects. He preached and taught and argued and placed himself in jeopardy in places far from home for Jesus’ sake and died in Turkey, a bit over thirty-one years old.
Simeon was anything but a slacker but over his fireplace he kept a picture of his young friend and would often remark, “There! See that blessed man. What an expression on his face! No one looks at me as he does. He never takes his eyes off me, and seems always to be saying: ‘Be serious! Be in earnest! Don’t trifle! Don’t trifle!’ Then with a smile he would gently bow and say, “And I won’t trifle; I won’t trifle!”
The tragic truth is that unforgettable images and glorious visions don’t keep all of us from collapse but the uplifting truth is that down the years countless people have been kept from wreck and ruin by a face, an image, an event that has become part of their inner worlds.
Scots preacher, Arthur Gossip, said that the Scottish town of Forfar wasn’t much given to emotion but it held Alexander Cumming in reverence. He crowded his happy days with kindness and concern and “faces everywhere lit up at the sight of him; and people, their voices suddenly grown softer, grew kindlier when he hove into sight.” Gossip spoke of a man he knew, a self-reliant, strong type, not one you would have thought could have easily been touched. That man looked after the departing Cumming and said to Gossip, “Often I pull myself together with this thought, that if I threw away my life, I think I could bear my punishment without whining, but…but”—and the man’s voice sagged a little—“I couldn’t face the pain in Mr. Cumming’s eyes.”
To be such a one, to be such a face, such a vision or image to someone, just one—would that not be heaven?Is this something of what the Hebrew writer had in mind—in addition to his specific agenda—is this something of what he had in mind when he said (12:2), “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus”? And isn’t this part of the reason we’ll want to live in the image of Jesus in whose face the glory of God is seen (2 Corinthians 4:6)? And is this not what Paul had in mind when he said (Ephesians 5:1-2) that we were to imitate God as his beloved children and walk in love even as Jesus loved us and offered himself up as a sacrifice, a sweet smelling aroma that would lead God to breathe it in and say, “Mmmm, love that fragrance”?