We look forward to the day when we will stand with Jesus, the Lamb who looks as if it had been slain (Rev 5:6). Glorified with him, our wounded bodies will testify to his defeat of sin and death. May our eyes be transformed even now, so that we might see beauty as revealed by our sacrificial Lamb.
One of the most dangerous things about beauty is the assumption that we know where to look for it.
We are not completely blind, of course: because of our creation in God’s image, which is not wholly destroyed by the Fall, all people have some God-given grasp of what beauty is. All of us, Christian and non-Christian, are rightfully drawn to beautiful works of art, music, and literature. We recognise the beauty of the Great Ocean Road, Niagara Falls, and the Alps.
And yet, sin does blind us. As Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor 4:4). As the true image of the Father, Jesus reveals God’s beauty as much as he reveals anything else about God. As one theologian puts it, “Jesus’ beauty…was the arresting beauty of truth, purity, servanthood, passion, power, mercy, and love…Jesus was a tapestry of all that is glorious in God intertwined with humanity’s capability to reflect the image of God.”
However, before the Spirit’s work of regeneration, humans are blind to the glory of Jesus. As one who “had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Is 53:2), Jesus confounds natural assumptions about who and what beauty is. His low, humble birth and upbringing is acknowledged in one response to his early ministry: “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (Jn 1:46).
Those that disdain his humility also recoil at the ugliness of his cross, seeing in it only weakness and foolishness (1 Cor 1:23). Shockingly, the cross is the place where God’s beauty is revealed most clearly. It’s there where God demonstrates just how far the plenitude of divine love is willing and able to go for the sake of the beloved. Yet, apart from the Spirit, we do not naturally look at the life and death of Jesus and recognize beauty.
Even after we are recreated in Jesus through the Spirit, the distortions of sin do not disappear overnight. The process of sanctification is slow. We need to have our vision retrained so that they recognise and appreciate what is truly beautiful.