Rembrandt’s Head of Christ, c. 1648-1650
By Harry Blamires, On Christian Truth, 2005:
A child was born in Bethlehem and his name was Jesus. When he grew up he healed the sick and restored the dead to life. He called himself the Son of God and declared, “I and the Father are one.” He called men and women to repentance and exhorted them to have faith in him. He gathered a small group of disciples around him and hinted to them that he must die and be raised from the dead. He broke bread and blessed wine for them, and offered them the forgiveness of sins. Shortly afterwards, he was killed, but then rose from the dead. And his disciples carried his message across the world.
That is what human eyes and ears witnessed. There is no God’s-eye view in that. There is just the testimony of men and women who had neither ax to grind nor material product to sell. It is the testimony of men and women who in many cases laid down their lives rather than deny what they or their predecessors had seen and heard of Jesus, the Son of God.
And what is there for human eyes and ears to witness today– apart from this record of what happened long ago?
There is the testimony of millions of men and women of all races and of all ranks, of all varieties of accomplishment, and of all levels of understanding; that they have found in a person, Jesus Christ, a Savior, a brother, and friend, who has lifted the burden of guilt from their hearts and given them peace and stability.
Do not, if you are an unbeliever, if you are skeptical, be put off by the fact that this experience seems to mean a thousand different things to a thousand different people. In one person, the heart and core of it seems to consist in a vocation of personal evangelism, rooted and grounded in expounding passages of the Bible. In another person, the heart and core of it seems to consist in regular attendance at Mass, regular confession to a priest, and the thumbing of beads in prayer. Do not make the mistake of thinking that these two people are involved if different systems of belief. For both of them, devotion to their Savior Jesus Christ is the living center of their practice and their convictions. Indeed, the variety of modes in which Christian devotion to Christ manifests itself is a strength rather than a weakness of the Christian religion. G. K. Chesterton told how he had been compulsively drawn to Christ by the fact that he was a person whom everyone praised for a different reason.
As we read the Bible and the works of wise Christian teachers, a hundred Christs pass before our eyes. There is Christ the King, and there is Christ the carpenter of Nazareth. There is the Son of God seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, and there is the child of Mary lying in a manger. There is the Good Shepherd and the true Vine, the Spouse of the Church and its cornerstone, the Sower of seed and the Fisher of men. Christ is the high priest standing at the altar, and the servant with water and a towel kneeling at your feet. He is the Light of the world and the knocker at your door. He is the Lamb sent to slaughter and the promised Messiah.
It is not surprising that those who claim to serve him can do so in ways so diverse.
But so far as our first encounter with him is concerned, he is simply the Savior, offering us the forgiveness of our sins and the hope of everlasting life. And around him are clustered the multitudes who tell us, “Yes, it works. Stop failing on your own. Stop trying to succeed on your own. Take him for what he is, God’s own Son. And ask him to take you over.”
Colossians 1:15-23a — The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation– if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.
Revelation 3:20a — “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.”
Lord Jesus, who once wandered the earth, leaving footprints which we should follow, look down upon each wanderer: strengthen the weary, encourage the despondent, lead back the erring, and comfort the striving. Lord Jesus, who at the end of days shall return to judge whether each person individually has followed you, let your example stand clearly before the eyes of our soul to disperse the mists, and strengthen us that we may firmly keep this before our eyes. May we, who must one day be brought before you for judgment, also through you to be brought to eternal happiness hereafter with you. Amen.
–Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) (adapted)