We Would See Jesus
Behold, I go forward, but He is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive Him: On the left hand, where He doth work, but I cannot behold Him; He hideth Himself on the right hand, that I cannot see Him (Job 23:8-9).
Quite a number of words have been used in the language of the New Testament to convey the idea of seeing. If we select the three suggested in the quotation from the Book of Job, we may be able to classify the different ideas as follows: To perceive; this verb might be used to denote inward spiritual perception, and such, definitely, is one of its meanings. To behold; this suggests the thought of earnest and continued contemplation, a contemplation that produces a result upon the beholder. To see; this verb is used to indicate a glance toward a moving object, something or someone of striking appearances.
In the Gospel of John these various ideas are developed together with others indicating sight or vision. In chapter 1:18, the plain statement is made, “No man hath seen God at any time.” Here the act of seeing conveys the idea of clear discernment. To understand the meaning of the passage, we have to examine the next part of the same verse which declares, “The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” This last clause might better be rendered, “He bath given us an exegesis of Him,” for such is the force of the language used. The Old Testament thought expressed in Job was that God could be discovered. John gives us an exposition of the stoop of the Lord Jesus from Eternity into Time, in order that all may prove His accessibility, in order that He manifest God.
The Holy Spirit in John’s Gospel chapter one sets out the three ideas conveyed in the words for seeing employed in the Book of Job.
“And looking upon Jesus as He walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!” (V. 36). John the Baptist catches a sight of Jesus walking. This act of John might be illustrative of the possible exercise of a person reading through the four Gospels. The walk of the Lord Jesus is set forth in detail that those who read may observe it closely. To feed the mind and the heart upon the story of Christ’s walk will help Christians to reproduce the wonderful grace that He manifested in His contacts with men.
“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (V. 29). Earnest, steadfast, intense contemplation is the exhortation of John the Baptist here. It may be noticed that he placed the Person of our Lord first, and then the work He was to accomplish second. Spiritual exercise along these lines might prove profitable today, for to have the mind concentrated upon the Person as an introduction to His work, would give profitable results.
“And I saw and bare record that this is the Son of God” (V. 34). This word “saw” indicates inward spiritual perception. Without straining either facts or words this becomes easily discernible. Physical sight and earnest contemplation might both fail to reveal spiritual depths; therefore, something further becomes necessary. Sight can be attributed to physical ability, but earnest contemplation infers intellectual exercise after which the resultant thought of the three steps appears. As the sight of the eye is calculated to lead to intellectual contemplation, even so will intellectual contemplation result in spiritual perception.
These three expressions are continued in chapter 20 of this same Gospel. John, acting under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, in arranging the events of the resurrection morning, details the movements of the disciples. Peter and John, after Mary’s message concerning the body of Jesus, are found proceeding to the scene of the resurrection with haste. John outstripped Peter for youth was on his side. The first act in this incident for our consideration is that in which John apparently Saw at a Glance that the body of Jesus was not there (V. 5). John the Apostle had previously described John the Baptist as looking upon Jesus as He walked; he now, similarly, tells us that Peter went in to the sepulchre and saw the linen clothes lying (V. 6). This action describes a closer contemplation than that which John had displayed up to this point. Now, John in like manner enters the tomb and grasps the full significance of the disturbed clothes. This might be described as Earnest Contemplation parallel to Beholding.
The final point in our study is emphasized when in chapter 20:16 Mary, after looking into the sepulchre and describing her loss to the angels, as purely personal, is brought to full attention by the Lord Jesus as He pronounces so wonderfully her name. She is aroused, and uses deep spiritual faculty in recognizing the Lord. This might be likened to that same power of recognition which John the Baptist employed in chapter one where he declared, “I saw and bare record that this is the Son of God.”
How precious are the words of the Lord Jesus to Thomas, “Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed!” (Chap. 20:29). To see Christ with the physical eye is, at the present, denied to all, but in the Word of God there are enough details to enable the child of God to use his intellect in the earnest consideration of the person of Christ during daily meditation, and these will bring a rich reward. The mind that is thus enriched by the contemplation of His blessed person, will prove to be a never failing source of spiritual joy. This joy will be translated into expressions of real adoration and affection. Occupation with Christ will become the constant employment of the souls of those who thus earnestly look upon Him. The statement, “Behold the Lamb of God,” caused two of John’s disciples to leave him, and to follow the Lord. Any intensive contemplation of the Lord by the soul will produce a like effect, and the life will be marked with the evidence of a closer intimacy with Christ and a clearer indication of divine wisdom in daily behaviour.
In view of these things, we must exhort one another to discern the person of the Lord as He reveals Himself to us as the very Son of God, and to acknowledge the claims of His Lordship upon us. Circumstances often appear which lead us to conclude that His Lordship is being denied. We may become disappointed in those we have esteemed as leaders, and we may lose for them our former respect. When this occurs we must cast ourselves upon the Lord. He never changes, and He never fails. How cast upon Him we are! It appears, in the routine of daily living, occasionally that the Son of God has hidden Himself, for we cannot sense His presence. Happy are the man and the woman who, fortified in mind by the Word of God, learn to discern the presence of Christ in circumstances, and who exercise that inward spiritual perception that enjoys His nearness when all around is dark.