We traveled to see The Face of Jesus today. Oh how we wish our feet took us in sandals to stand in the crowds listening to his stories or to eat the bread he multiplied or to cast our nets with him into on the sea. Instead, we traveled in our vehicle to the city of Detroit where stands a building dedicated to art.
The building itself is art.
We toured a special exhibition called The Face of Jesus, which brings together for the first time paintings and drawings of the Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn’s and his students who uniquely captured the face of Jesus in their day, breaking from traditional 17th-century representations.
From the 1400s-1600s, European artists portrayed Jesus as a heroic figure with European features and a body of a Greek athlete. Rembrandt was the first Western European artist to represent visually that Jesus was a Jew. He captured his humanness, humble and approachable.
Rembrandt is recognized for being a master of expressive light. He used light to illuminate the divine qualities of Jesus. Light became another character participating in the dramas of his art. Sometimes the light would be blinding, burning through darkness. Other paintings depict the light gently bathing the scene.
We may never know what Jesus really looked like when he walked the earth in his sandals and spoke truth, healed the sick and displayed a redemptive reality to this broken world.
But we know what he looks like now. For we are the face of Jesus. His body appearing among the world. Faces like these.
I ask you, Church: What picture are we portraying of Jesus? What face are we showing? One of pride and judgement?
Or one of humility?
One of selfish ambition and western ideals? Or compassion and sacrifice for others?
One who is self righteous and unchanging? Or one who is faithful and submissive to the spirit?
We are the face of Jesus. Just as he made known to the world his Father, we make known to the present world the whole Gospel story. It’s the very reason he breathed his spirit in us, imparted us with Truth that we may become environments of grace among a hurting and sinful world waiting for judgment.
What we say and do represents God and his redemptive intentions to the world.
May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face to you and give you peace that you may turn to the world and do the same.
I was unable to use my camera in the exhibition, but I share with you other Christian art owned and displayed at the Detroit Institute of Art.