What would it be like to gaze at the face of Jesus?
Ever wonder what Jesus looked like? That question brings to mind a painting many of us can recall from our childhoods. I can remember seeing it hanging on the walls at churches, in SundaySchool classes and in homes.
The “Head of Christ,” by professional illustrator Warner Sallman, depicts Jesus with bronze skin and long, brown hair on his shoulders. In Sallman’s painting, a side profile of his Jesus, one can see the shape of a chalice on Christ’s forehead and the shadow of a dove under his eye.
Sallman first painted his idea of Jesus – with eyes staring serenely, his face aglow. Described by some as a photographic portrait of Christ, Sallman’s charcoal sketch was first published in 1924 on the cover of a church magazine.
It attracted admirers over the years, so the artist painted an oil version in 1940. The picture, which many of us recognize, began to appear on gift items like clocks, lamps, puzzles, calendars and Bibles.
During World War II, the Salvation Army and YMCA, both members of the USO, handed out pocket-sized versions of “The Head of Christ” to American soldiers overseas. A commercial illustrator, Warner Sallman completed over 140 works of art during his lifetime (1892-1968). His other well-known paintings include “Christ in Gethsemane,” “Christ at Heart’s Door,” and “The Lord is my Shepherd.”
Reading about the artist and his famous picture of Jesus makes me wonder what it would be like to gaze at the face of Jesus. What would the disciples and other followers of Jesus tell us if we could talk to them today?
We all may picture something different when we think of Jesus – whether during the 33 years He lived on earth or our risen Lord now seated next to God in heaven. We know He had a beard because just before His crucifixion His beard was cruelly pulled out. I believe Jesus has eyes of compassion for the sick, the grieving, the lonely and the lost.
It seems to me He would smile, especially at some of the things His children get themselves into. Then again, I imagine His expression turns to sadness when Christians fall into temptation and sin.
Over and over again in the Scriptures, we are instructed to seek His face, meaning His presence. His Word promises, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive them sin and heal their land” (1 Chronicles 7:14).
One of my favorite hymns says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”
One day, as the apostle Paul tells us, we shall see Him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12 ). According to another hymn, “what a day glorious day that will be!”
Jan White is an national award-winning religion columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org