Ten Looks at Jesus, Part 2

Eglise Le Sentier | Gatineau, Quebec

We ended the first session, and Look #5, with why Jesus was despised, rejected, and crushed to death at the cross: for us, for “the many,” for those who receive him through faith (Isaiah 53:4–6). I noted there, at the end, “the joy set before him.” That, as Isaiah 53:11 foretold, “out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied.” In other words, it pleased him. He delighted to be put to death. His willing was not an empty willing but a full, satisfied willing — full enough to sustain him in horrifying agony and suffering.

But what such joy requires is resurrection. If Jesus stays dead, there is no joy, no delight, no God-honoring and church-loving willingness. But resurrection is right there in Isaiah 53:10–12:

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
     he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
     he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
     make many to be accounted righteous,
     and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
     and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
     and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
     and makes intercession for the transgressors.

So much there: substitution, willing submission, intercession (which we’ll come to). But for now, amazingly, resurrection:

  • Verse 10: “He shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.”
  • Verse 11: “He shall see [his offspring] and be satisfied.”
  • Verse 12: “I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death.”

The resurrection is not icing on the cake of Christianity. With Christ’s life and his death, it is the cake. If he did not rise, then he is dead — and it all falls apart. Unlike with sacrificial animals, appointed as a temporary provision, the once-for-all salvation is not accomplished without the resurrection of the suffering servant.

So before we go on, here are our five looks at Jesus so far:

  1. He delighted his Father before creation.
  2. He became man.
  3. He lived for his Father’s glory.
  4. He humbled himself.
  5. He died for sins not his own.

Now, to the rest of our ten looks at Christ.

Look #6: He rose again.

Colossians 1:15–20 might be the most important six consecutive verses in the Bible. Here we find both creation and salvation cast in utterly Christ-centered terms:

[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Jesus is “the firstborn from the dead.” During his life, all those he restored to life died again. But when Jesus rose again, he rose never to die again.

Our key term for Look #6 is resurrection. Which means not to be restored to your fallen, human body to die again, but to rise in your body to the indomitable life of the next age. It is a real body. In fact, we might even say a more real body. What will be true of us was true of Christ’s human body first. 1 Corinthians 15:42–44:

What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body [not a spirit but a spiritual body]. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

So resurrection refers first to Jesus’s human body, then also, in him, to ours. And the resurrection of Christ not only made good on God’s word, and not only vindicated Christ’s sinless life, and not only confirmed the achievement of his death, and not only gives us access to his work, but the resurrection means he is alive to know and enjoy forever.

There is no final good news if our Treasure and Pearl of Great Price is dead. Even if our sins could be paid for, righteousness provided and applied to us, and heaven secured, but Jesus were still dead, there would be no great salvation in the end. At the very center of Christ’s resurrection is not what he saves us from, but what he saves us to — better, whom he saves us to: himself.

Look #7: He ascended into heaven.

Twice Luke writes about Jesus’s ascension. The first time at the end of his Gospel, Luke 24:50–51:

[Jesus] led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.

Then, in more detail, at the beginning of Acts:

When [the disciples] had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:6–11)

So, Luke 24 says, “He parted from them and was carried up into heaven.” And Acts 1 says, “He was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” Then the angel says, “Jesus . . . was taken up from you into heaven.”

Jesus — in his risen human body — was lifted up, carried up, taken up, until a cloud shielded the sight of his apostles, and he was gone. And this was no novelty act. This was crucial for the presentation of his finished work in the very presence of the Father and for the fulfilling of the ancient prophesies of his sitting on David’s throne and ruling as sovereign over the nations.

Christ’s Coronation

Luke 24 and Acts 1 give us the earthly vantage of his ascension. But we also get a glimpse from the other side in Hebrews 1. His ascension, human body and all, brings him to heaven, and Hebrews 1 captures something of this great moment of his processing to the throne and being crowned king of the universe. Hebrews 1:3 says,

After making purification for sins [that is, through his death, and being raised and ascending], he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

Hebrews 1:5 then takes the great coronation hymn of Psalm 2 and applies its Messianic declaration to Jesus as the heir of David: “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.” And Hebrews 1:6 says that “when he brings [carries, lifts up, takes up] the firstborn into the world [that is, “the world to come,” Hebrews 2:5], he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’”

All this to set the scene for Psalm 110 in Hebrews 1:13: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” Not a full account, by any means, but a taste of that climactic moment of coronation on the other side of the ascension.

Enthroned as Man

There are two critical realities worth mentioning with his enthronement and sitting down. (1) In taking his seat on the very throne of heaven, he comes into the fullness of divine sovereignty, and now as man. As he says at the end of Matthew, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). It always was his as God. But now, he has come into full possession of the divine rule over the universe and all nations as man, sitting as the climactic human king on the throne of heaven.

“From heaven’s throne, the risen Christ pours out his Holy Spirit in new measure on his people.”

Which leads then to (2) his pouring out his Spirit (Acts 1:8: “When the Holy Spirit has come upon you . . .”). From heaven’s throne, the risen Christ pours out his Holy Spirit in new measure on his people for the accomplishing of his ongoing work in the world of applying his salvation to his people.

Perhaps you know from the Apostles’ Creed: “He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.” Now as we move from Look #7 to Look #8, we move from past to present, from ascended and enthroned to is seated and is interceding.

Look #8: He intercedes for us.

Present tense. This is what Jesus is doing right now — interceding. Until now, we’ve rehearsed seven past-tense verbs: delighted, became, devoted, humbled, died, rose, ascended. But now: intercedes.

Now he “is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty,” and as Isaiah 53:12 says, he “makes intercession for the transgressors.” As Romans 8:34 celebrates, “Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” But our main text for Look #8 is Hebrews 7:25:

He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Our key term: intercession. So what does it mean in general and specifically, as it relates to what Jesus is doing right now? In general, to intercede means to go between two parties in an effort (1) to reconcile them to each other or (2) to advocate for one with the other. We often talk about interceding in prayer when we pray on another’s behalf, but the specific kind of interceding Jesus does for his people, with the Father, is distinct from our praying for each other.

“There is one God,” says 1 Timothy 2:5, “and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” So Jesus’s intercession for us is not an asking on our behalf based on the mediation of another. Jesus is the mediator. He himself is the intercession. And so Hebrews 7:25 says, “He always lives to make intercession [for us].”

Which means that with his every breath, with every beat of his indestructible new-creation heart, he is our living, indissoluble link to God. I don’t think we’re to picture Christ in heaven as our intercessor, on his knees, begging the Father, “Please, don’t destroy him — I’m asking for that one.” No, he ever lives to make intercession for his people. How does he do it? He lives. If we are his, and he is alive, then his very life, his very breath, the very beating of his glorified human heart (that will never stop beating), intercedes for all those joined to him by faith.

Seated in heaven, Jesus is not anxious or uncertain. He is not scurrying around heaven’s throne room. He lives. He sits on heaven’s throne, secure and utterly stable, in perfect heavenly equanimity and composure, interceding for his people with God almighty by his very life and breath. And as the Apostles’ Creed confesses, “From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.”

Look #9: He will come again.

Now to the future: his second coming, and with it, the final judgment. This is the next distinct step in history. He will return and bring with him the fullness of mercy and grace to his people, and at long last perfect and final justice to the world. “He comes on that day,” says Paul in 2 Thessalonians 1:10, “to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed.”

“Jesus is coming back. And those who reject him will stand in terror. And those who love him will thrill at his coming.”

Jesus is coming back. And those who despise and reject him — whether through apathy or outright hatred — will stand in terror. And those who love him will thrill at his coming and marvel at him, which will glorify him, and receive rewards from him, the righteous judge.

One of the great glories of Christ is that God will judge the world through him. When Peter opens his mouth to proclaim the message of Christ to the Gentiles for the first time, he not only recounts Christ’s death and resurrection and the witnesses “who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead” (Acts 10:39–41). But he also says that Jesus commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that “he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42).

And Paul preached in Acts 17, God “has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). Let’s consider five distinct aspects of this coming justice (our key word for Look #9).

1. He will come in glory.

First and foremost, this second coming, as final judge, is very much about the glory of Christ. His saints will marvel; his enemies will cower. “The Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father” (Matthew 16:27), and “the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him” (Matthew 25:31). No eye will miss this (Revelation 1:7). No corner of the earth will be unaware. All else will stop. Every eye will see him — in his glory.

2. All will stand before him.

But not only will every eye see him. Every person will stand before him. “Each person,” says Jesus (Matthew 16:27). “Each one,” says the apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 5:10). And not just those alive at the time but “the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42; Romans 14:9; 2 Timothy 4:1; 1 Peter 4:5). “We will all stand before the judgment seat of God” (Romans 14:10). And whom will we see seated on that throne? “Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead” (2 Timothy 4:1).

3. He will separate wheat and weeds.

Then, for those who are in him by faith, there will come a glorious and perfect discrimination:

Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (Matthew 25:32)

In this glorious and horrifying moment, all human pretenses and illusions will be stripped away, and one thing will matter: Are you wheat or weed? As the Judge had said in his first coming, “Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, ‘Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn’” (Matthew 13:30) — and it will be a spectacular barn.

4. He will remedy every wrong.

First the weeds, he said, will be bundled and burned. And in that day, every just cry for justice will be answered, and far more fully and finally than we are able to answer pleas for justice in this age. We will put our hands over our mouths as the risen, omnipotent Lamb executes perfect justice in his perfect righteousness, with no excess and no compromise.

How many seemingly irreconcilable conflicts in this age, which our judges and judicial systems stumble over again and again, await the day when the Judge finally comes and sets all to rights? And we will marvel at his justice.

5. He will reward the righteous.

Finally, he will gather the wheat into his barn. Having remedied every wrong, he will reward every cup of cold water given in his name (Matthew 10:42). He will reward the righteous — those who are righteous ultimately by faith but also in true measure by the Spirit.

In his extravagant generosity, grace, and mercy, he will lavish his people not only with entrance to a new heavens and new earth, where righteousness dwells, but on top of it all, he will reward his people for what good they have done “in the body” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

On that great day, we will see it with our own eyes — and feel its full effects as recipients of his great mercy by faith: our advocate will stand supreme as final judge and complete the arc of his glories as the God-man.

And so one last Look remains: eternity future.

Look #10: We will enjoy him forever.

In an important sense, Look #10 is not the end but a new beginning. Now, and till then, “we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now [we] know in part; then [we] shall know fully, even as [we] have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). “When he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). To see him, face to face, in his glory — with all history complete — will be not only to know him but to enjoy him, in that great climactic moment, and increasingly forever.

In Revelation 5, the scene is set in heaven. The apostle John sees a scroll in the hand of the one seated on the throne. In verse 2, an angel lifts up his voice and asks, “Who is worthy to open the scroll?” And heaven goes quiet. No one is worthy. And John says he began to weep because none were found worthy. Then one of the elders of heaven turns and says to him,

“Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:5)

Then John reports, “I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, . . . they sang a new song, saying,

Worthy are you to take the scroll
     and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
     from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
     and they shall reign on the earth.

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne . . . the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing! (Revelation 5:5–12)

So, John sees a Lamb who is the Lion. He sees one who had been slain now standing, risen. He sees one who is worthy, like no one else is worthy, to take the scroll of history from the hand of God almighty and open it. He sees a lion-like Lamb and a lamb-like Lion who in the very presence of God almighty in heaven receives the praises of heaven’s angels and myriads of myriads.

“Our sight of Christ and nearness to him and enjoyment of him will not be momentary, but eternal.”

Our last key term is beatific vision, which means literally “the sight that makes happy.” This is the great Happiness to come, the final happiness for which our souls have longed our whole human lives. And as much as we long for that coming first instance, our sight of Christ and nearness to him and enjoyment of him will not be momentary, or static, but eternal and dynamic — ever increasing, ever progressing, ever clearer, ever deeper, ever sweeter.

The one who once, in his state of humiliation, “had no form or majesty that we should look at him” (Isaiah 53:2), will be the supremely Majestic One from whom we will never want to turn away our gaze. We, his people, will be his bride, and he will be our Groom to enjoy forever. Not only will we have him as ours, but he will have us as his. Then we will delight in, and increasingly so forever, “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus [our] Lord” (Philippians 3:8).

One Look at Yourself?

So, ten Looks at Christ. Seven past, one present, two future:

  1. Preexistence: He delighted his Father before creation.
  2. Incarnation: He became man.
  3. Devotion: He lived to His Father’s glory.
  4. Submission: He humbled himself.
  5. Substitution: He died for others’ sins. 6 Resurrection: He rose again to eternal, glorified human life.
  6. Ascension: He was lifted up to heaven (and sat down as king).
  7. Intercession: He intercedes for us.
  8. Justice: He will come again to right every wrong and reward.
  9. Beatific Vision: He will be our delight forever.

For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. And after these ten looks at Jesus, might we end with one look at ourselves? I won’t pretend to know what the particular need is for you.

Perhaps here tonight you’ve heard Jesus’s whole story, from beginning to end, for the first time.

Or perhaps you’ve heard it before, at least in bits and pieces, but it’s never been compelling until, strangely, somehow, tonight. Maybe your looks at Jesus have been few and far between. But ten looks kept your eyes on him longer than ever before, and your heart is swelling with admiration.

Or perhaps you’ve heard his story before, you know it well, and now you’re encountering him again tonight.

And there is so much more to behold. So let me end where we began, and make Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s counsel to a friend a happy exhortation to us:

Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. He is altogether lovely. Such infinite majesty, and yet such meekness and grace, and all for sinners, even the chief! Live much in the smiles of God. Bask in His beams. Feel His all-seeing eye settled on you in love, and [rest] in His almighty arms.