The tax collector, meanwhile, stood at a distance. He “dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed.” (v. 13) because he realized the consequences of his sin: that he was not right with God, and that he desperately needed God’s mercy. So, he beat his chest in sorrow, and in Jesus’ words, he“returned home justified before God. For the proud will be humbled and the humble will be honored.” (v. 14)
But what would he have seen if he had dared to look up to heaven?
Like the immoral woman who anointed Jesus’ feet (see post “To See His Face”), I believe he would have been amazed to see complete acceptance, love, and forgiveness for him in the face of God.
The proud Pharisee could not see God’s face because his pride was the veil that blinded him to his own sin. The apostle Paul later wrote to the Corinthians: “But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, then the veil is taken away…And all of us have had that veil removed so that we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more.” (2 Corinthians 3:16, 18)
“For God, who said, ‘Let there be light in the darkness,’ has made us understand that this light is the brightness of the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)
As we recognize and confess our sin, we turn in true repentance to the Lord. Then, the veil of our pride can no longer blind us from seeing our need for a Savior.
As the veil is taken away, we can see the beautiful face of our Savior and be made right with God because we are no longer relying on ourselves, but on the perfect sacrifice of Jesus.
As we focus our gaze, not on our sin and unworthiness, but on Christ and His worthiness, the light and glory of His face will shine brightly into our hearts. We will joyfully embrace the gift of His mercy and unconditional love because we know how undeserving and needy we are.
As we gaze upon His face in increasing measure, and as the Holy Spirit works within us, we will reflect His glory more and more. What an amazing truth!
Recently, our family has been reading a book that I would highly recommend, Can You Hear Me? Tuning in to the God Who Speaks, by Brad Jersak. He gives great examples and practical ways to grow in communication and intimacy with God, and says, “To behold the face of our Savior opens a channel of grace into our hearts.”
“One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek Him in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4)
O Lord, you’re beautiful,
Your face is all I seek.
For when your eyes are on this child,
Your grace abounds to me.
(“O Lord, You’re Beautiful” by Keith Green, 1980 Birdwing Music)