“What do we perceive in Jesus?” Steve DeWitt asked as he began the third general session of this year’s conference. “If God is displaying the glory of Jesus through all of creation, redemption, and history, then when we see the glory of Christ, what is it that we actually see?”
The answer is—or should be—the beauty of Christ. While the church often talks at great length about the humanity, deity, and cross of Christ (and rightly so), DeWitt feels that the beauty of Christ has been too often neglected in our preaching and teaching. “It seems to me a key gaping hole in the evangelical understanding of Jesus is the beauty of Christ,” he says.
In 2 Corinthians 4:4–6, Paul contrasted the spiritual blindness of the unbeliever with the glorious vision of Christ’s glory that believers are privileged to receive. “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness,” he wrote, “who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Of course, Christians do not presently see the physical face of Jesus, DeWitt is quick to explain. The language here is metaphorical. It points to the spiritual apprehension of Christ’s beauteous and glorious character that Christians receive through faith and through the Scriptures. “When the light goes on,” DeWitt says, “we see what was always true about Jesus—the glory of God, displayed in His Son.”
There are several ways in which Jesus can be seen as beautiful, DeWitt says. First, Jesus is beautiful as the perfect image of God. Whereas we, His human creatures, merely reflect the image of God, Jesus is the image of God. “He is the radiance of the glory of God,” the author of Hebrews wrote, “and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3, ESV). To look at Jesus, then, is to see God and His glorious perfections.
Second, Jesus is beautiful as the beauty which all other beauties reflect. God has filled our world with beautiful and pleasant things—sunsets, mountains, colors, pleasures, good food, friendships, and music. And all these things that we enjoy, DeWitt says, are meant to point us to the even greater beauty and glory of Christ their Creator. “Every atom and galaxy of this universe is by God’s design a self-portrait of what He is like,” he explains.
Third, Jesus is beautiful as the full expression of divine love. “What do we see when we look at Jesus?” DeWitt asks. “We see incredible compassion for the brokenness and the pain of human experience. . . . We see mercy for the humble of heart. . . . We see in Jesus total self-giving to redeem sinners.” This divine love is perhaps most fully and poignantly displayed in Christ’s cross-work. He came to die that we, His rebellious and undeserving creatures, might live.
Fourth, he is beautiful as the satisfaction of all our longings. The human heart cries out for something greater than all this world has to offer, and that cry can only be answered by the satisfaction that is found in Christ. DeWitt suggests that the church needs to be constantly proclaiming the glorious beauty of Jesus to the world around us, asking people, “What are you searching for? Is something missing in your life? Does something feel broken in your life? . . . Is your marriage unfulfilling? . . . Do you have family relationships that are just chronically disappointing you?” The joy that transcends these ever-present difficulties and frustrations can be found, of course, only in Christ. And because He satisfies all our longings, we are drawn to embrace Him as Savior and Lord. DeWitt explains, “It is the beauty of Christ, seen through the glory of Jesus, that draws our hearts to believe.”