Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen [me] and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:29). Those words were spoken in response to Thomas, who had just declared Jesus as “My Lord and my God!” As one who has come to believe, I’m grateful to be blessed, but all the same I wonder what the Jesus of 2,000 years ago was like in person.
We can imagine what Jesus was like as a man, when we read the gospel stories; we can hear his words and be inspired, challenged and liberated. I never tire of his teaching, because each time his words seem to touch my heart and mind in different ways. They are like a deep well to which I can return time and again to draw wisdom from.
But one thing is missing: what “music” was there in the words and what meaning was there in the face of Jesus when he spoke? This question came to mind last week when I met Fernando, who stayed with us at the Rectory for a couple of days. Fernando speaks no English and I speak no Spanish; yet somehow we had to find a way of communicating.
I discovered that communication is easiest when you are working together on a shared task – something as simple as moving tables and chairs around, which we did to prepare for a wedding. We communicated by using eyes and hand gestures – sometimes speaking in our own language simply to convey a particular tone rather than a meaning.
Later, as we sat together at the kitchen table drinking the coffee Fernando had brought from Colombia, he showed me an app on his phone which translates English into Spanish and vice versa. This led to a conversation mediated by a computer translator, with each of us taking turns to speak into the phone and waiting while it spoke back to us in another language.
On the one hand, it was good to converse, even in this impaired way, and to hear Fernando talking about his faith and the religious experiences he and his family had shared. On the other hand, as we were talking, I kept checking Fernando’s facial expression to ascertain the tone and intention in which his words were framed, even as their literal meaning escaped me as he spoke.
Later I thought about the face of Jesus. It occurred to me that whoever speaks the words of Jesus becomes de facto his face. The question is then, what is the face of Jesus? The Church teaches us to see Jesus in every person, but what that means is that others will want to see the face of Jesus in you. How do you become the face of Jesus? In my experience it happens when you live your life in accordance with the teachings of Jesus, and emulate the early disciples who were “continually in the temple blessing God.” (Luke 24:53). In other words, by following Christ and being faithful in your church going; for it’s in church that we hear the words of Jesus and learn to become mature believers and members of a loving Christian community.
As the face of Jesus you will find yourself in situations where you will be speaking on his behalf, and what better way to be equipped for those situations than to have a confident and informed faith? We are a “movement”, as Presiding Bishop Curry informs us, which means on one level that God’s Spirit is moving in us and changing us into the likeness of Christ each day. Never underestimate the power of God’s life-giving Spirit to transform and animate you. As we face the world and the world faces us, let the light of Christ’s countenance shine through you.
With every blessing