-By Joshua Parker-
In this day and age, the words ‘beauty’ and ‘Christ’ don’t seem like words that you would use in the same sentence. However, as we will see, beauty is actually a very fitting word to describe Him. The concept of beauty indicates something that is attractive or pleasing – often to the eye, but not always. In our present culture, it is viewed as something that is not only outward, but subjective. As the saying goes, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” – beauty is not objective, there is a transient nature to it.
However, as a biblical concept, beauty is something that is seen as primarily inward and objective. It is inward because the character is what God says is important – it is man that looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart (1 Sam 16:7). It is also subjective because it is fundamentally rooted in God Himself – in His character. He is the source of beauty itself (Ps 27:4; 50:2).
It is thus fitting that mankind, made in God’s image, reflects God’s beauty. We are created after Him in knowledge, righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:24). We were created to reflect this beauty as we rule creation under God. However, sin now mars this beauty and the original relationship God intended for Himself with man. Thus, in order to restore this relationship, and consequently the image of God, we need a mediator. We need one who is not only fully God, but also fully man – one who is in the perfect image of God – with the true human nature (Gal 4:4-5; 1 Jn 4:2-3). Thus, Christ is beautiful in both His human and divine natures. This is the One who is majestic above all, and as we gaze upon Him all the more, we will find little else will satisfy our soul. We know from Isaiah that Jesus had no physical beauty that would attract anyone to Him (53:2b), but in these two articles, we will look at 6 attributes that serve to show the beauty of Christ.
The Glory of Christ
Throughout God’s Word we see that God is glorious and majestic (Ex 15:6, 11) and there is none like Him. He alone has glory and none other – He alone deserves the worship and adoration of His creation. However, in taking on flesh, Jesus did not hold on to His heavenly status, the glory He had with the Father before the world existed (Jn 17:5). His glory is the sum of all His attributes plus the heavenly status that accompanies it. However, during His earthly ministry, the first was veiled, and the second was relinquished for a time. Nonetheless, John records that they had seen Jesus’ glory, “glory as of the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14). So how was Jesus’ glory displayed? It was partly through His works and signs (Jn 2:11) that pointed to His identity, as well as at His transfiguration (Lk 9:28-36). This was Jesus’ glory being shown in part – that is why we long for the day when we go to be with Jesus – for we shall see His glory – His beauty – in full.
The Prayerfulness of Christ
Having relinquished His glory and His intimate face-to-face communication with the Father, the Son sought earnestly to commune with His Father while on earth. Jesus regularly sought time to go away privately and commune with His father (Lk 5:16; 6:12; 9:28; 22:45). We see the Son praying earnestly and deeply with the Father in the Upper Room and then later in the garden of Gethsemane.
as a biblical concept, beauty is something that is seen as primarily inward and objective
This is what Jesus earnestly desired – intimacy with His Father. How many of us fill our lives so full with Christian ‘ministry’ when what He desires more than anything else is for us to know Him, to love Him, to commune with Him – and for our grateful service to flow from that? Jesus knew His Father and knew His Word, even as a boy in the temple (Lk 2:41-52). In a very real sense, if the Son of God was fervent in prayer, how much more should we – helpless, sinful creatures – come to God in prayerful dependence? This is what Christ displayed – the beauty of prayerful intimacy with His Father.
The Humility of Christ
Unlike many would believe today, humility is not a weakness. Man is called by God to be humble, and it is very simple – we are to see ourselves in light of who God is – and this should cause us to have a correct view of ourselves. We are finite, weak creatures; God is infinite and almighty. Humility is seen in how we relate to others – how we put others before ourselves and this may or may not manifest itself in submission to others. However, we see the condescension of Christ in coming to earth, and His subsequent humiliation as He suffered, even to the point of death (Phil 2:8). Christ did not look to His own interests, but to the interests of others (v4). He became poor for our sake, that through His poverty, we might become rich (2 Cor 8:9). That one so high and lofty should stoop so low and serve sinful humans (Jn 13:13-14) is beyond comprehension! We see that Christ was obedient to His Father and this was worked out through His humility during the incarnation. No better example than that of Christ can be seen – and in urging us to practise humility, Paul shows us the beauty of Christ’s humble obedience – that we might give our whole live in humble service to Him.
The Sinlessness of Christ
Christ was also the sinless Lamb of God – a lamb without blemish or spot (1 Pt 1:19). Foreshadowed in the Old Testament with the sacrifice of a male lamb without blemish (Ex 12:5), Christ’s sinlessness enabled Him to die the perfect death on our behalf. It is His purity that causes us to wonder why one so innocent should not only purpose but carry out this sacrifice on our behalf! However, Christ’s righteousness is more than a lack of sin, it is His perfect, humble obedience to God and His law. One such example in Matthew 3 is the baptism of Jesus. Surely we wonder with John the Baptist why Jesus would need to undergo baptism, a sign that points to (among other things) of the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). Nonetheless, it was not forgiveness that Jesus needed, but in order to “fulfill all righteousness” (Mt 3:15) – to perfectly obey His Father. As a diamond sparkles even more greatly with a black backdrop, so Christ’s righteousness is even more beautiful as it is contrasted with the sinners and the sinful world in which He lived. It is this robe of righteousness that He gives us – all those that would trust in Him – so that we might be declared righteous in God’s sight!
The Patience and Forgiveness of Christ
We see that the forgiveness found in Jesus also manifests itself in the very patience and forgiveness He expresses to sinners. We know that God is both patient with His people (2 Pet 3:9; Is 30:18) and forgiving (Ps 86:5; 130:3-4). In Christ’s ministry on earth, He displayed His patience as He bore with His disciples in their ignorance, their hard-heartedness and ultimately, their sin. We also see His forgiveness, one such example being His healing of the crippled man (Mk 2:1-12). He knew the man’s real need – to be forgiven of his sins. What is so amazing and radical about Jesus’ forgiveness of the man’s sins to the Jews was that He was claiming to be God. What is just as amazing and what is often less remarked upon, is the fact that Jesus should forgive at all! What sinners deserve is God’s justice and wrath, but instead Jesus shows patience towards sinners and forgives them. Jesus’ patience and forgiveness are most clearly seen in His death upon the cross. Like a “lamb led to the slaughter… He opened not His mouth” (Is 53:2). He patiently endured the cross because of the joy set before Him (Heb 12:2) – because He would redeem His people and be exalted on high. There is beauty in His patience and forgiveness – and what a wondrous beauty it is!
The Love of Christ
The love of Christ seems to have no bounds! Even though He had departed with His apostles in order to rest, coming ashore He sees the pursuing crowds and has compassion on them “because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mk 6:34). As any good shepherd would do, He proceeds to feed them – first with God’s Word (for that is what He knows they need most), and then with food. At other times, He healed the sick, raised the dead, fed the hungry and we see His compassion in His invitation to His sheep “come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28).
What sinners deserve is God’s justice and wrath, but instead Jesus shows patience towards sinners and forgives them.
However, His greatest act of love is seen in His loving condescension in the incarnation and dying for us, to reconcile us with God (Rom 5:9-10; 1 Jn 3:16). What love is this, that the very Son of God should become the God-man and die for us? The beauty in Christ’s love is first that He didn’t need to show it to us. Each person of the Godhead was in perfect, loving union with the others – they didn’t need to show favour or love to us. The second being that Christ died for those who were not just “weak”, but “ungodly” “sinners”, who were “enemies” of Him (Rom 5:6-10)! What beautiful love indeed! These attributes of Christ are what we are to think on. I do not think that any of us think on Christ enough – but we need to meditate on His very character, fill our minds with His beauty, dwell on who He is. If we do, we will find that we will come to love Him more, praise Him more and be all the more willing to follow Him! What is magnificent is that this beautiful image of Christ is what we are being transformed into (Rom 8:29; 1 Cor 15:49). As we are being made more like Him, we are being renewed in the image of God that we were created to have. This is what we are what we are to put on (Col 3:10, 12-14) – true beauty.
Joshua Parker attends Wahroonga Presbyterian Church and is currently studying Physiotherapy at Macquarie University