A couple of days ago in my post Why Do We Hide From God I said:
You cannot meet God face to face and live the Old Testament prophets often proclaimed. God’s greatness passes all comprehension. God’s love and holiness is beyond our imagining.
So my question this morning is – Can we meet God face to face and live? In some ways the answer is no. The light of God’s radiance is so blind, the revelation of God’s character so mind boggling that we cannot see and hear it and live. Fortunately God knows that and does everything possible to reveal the divine presence in such a way that we can face this revelation and live.
It is Jesus Christ, Word made flesh, that enables us to see God. It is the birth, the whole life, the words, the works, the death, the resurrection, the ascension and the ongoing revelation through the Holy Spirit that reveals who God is to us. I love this quote from Lord, Teach Us to Pray by nineteenth century Scottish pastor Alexander Whyte:
There is nothing, in earth or in heaven, to our imagination now like the Word made flesh…. The truly Christian imagination never lets Jesus Christ out of her sight. And she keeps him in her sight and ever before her inward eyes in this way. (p249)
To meet God face to face we must constantly keep Jesus in our sight. We must lift our faces always to see the compassion and love in his face, to see the heartache and the suffering indelibly etched in his countenance, to see the grace and the forgiveness so lavishly expressed to us through it. Our hearts should ache with longing for this kind of revelation.
Perhaps however the God revealed through Jesus is still too radiant for us to look at face to face. Is it possible to read the Sermon on the Mount fully attentive to what Jesus is saying without looking away in shame because of how poorly we have followed these commands? Is it possible to gaze into Jesus face hearing him say “love your neighbour as yourself” and “love your enemies” without feeling we want to run away and hide?
If when we read the gospels we truly opened our eyes to see the God revealed in Jesus Christ, if we stopped to imagine that Jesus was actually standing in the room with us as we read these words what difference would it make? Or perhaps we need to imagine ourselves in the stories. Jesus healing the leper is our story. We feel the self-loathing, the despair, the uncleanness of our souls and hearts that separates us from God, but instead of crying to Jesus for cleansing we hide. Perhaps we feel like Lazarus in the grave or Mary Magdalene, or Peter disowning Christ, or Judas selling his saviour for a few coins. All of their stories are our stories and the true miracle is that each of these people had the opportunity to meet Jesus face to face. The unnamed leper, Lazarus, Mary and Peter were transformed. Judas could not face the revelation and turned away.
When was the last time you were fully attentive to God? When was the last time you felt God’s heart beating within you, sensed God’s upon you or heard God’s loving whispers? When was the last time you met God’s eye, repented of your sins and listened to the joy that rang through heaven at your renewal?
This morning I know these are questions I need to ask myself and I would encourage you to do the same.