Every true Christian wants to see Jesus. Perhaps we’re all a bit envious of the Apostle John, who got to lean against Jesus in the upper room; or the Apostle Paul, who saw the ascended Lord Jesus in all His majesty and splendor; or the Apostle Peter, who witnessed the transfiguration and ate a fish breakfast with the resurrected Christ, who restored him. But these Apostles in their writings don’t elevate their immediate interactions with Jesus above what you and I have. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
John records Jesus’ prayer for those who will believe in Him not through visual sight but through the word of the Apostles (John 17:20). Paul claims that the Christian walk is one “by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). And Peter expresses wonder at Christians who love Him whom they’ve never seen:
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8–9)
According to Jesus and His Apostles, there is a primacy to faith founded on word rather than sight. This might appear contrary to our preferences. Ours is an image-centric culture. Even Christians can be conditioned to favor the visual medium. Popular TV shows and movies attempt to depict the lives of Jesus and His disciples, because to make the unseen seen is assumed to heighten both understanding and communion. But the wisdom of God challenges our media preferences. Faith, which is “more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire” (1 Peter 1:7), is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Jesus told His disciples that it was advantageous for them that He go away (John 16:7). Remember also His words to Thomas: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
In God’s wisdom, faith characterizes this age, but sight will characterize the age to come. We mustn’t reverse or despise this. Until the final revelation of Jesus Christ, the Christian walks by faith rather than sight. But our communion with the risen and ascended Lord Jesus is real communion. It is spiritual—it is by faith in His Word. It is invisible—we can’t see Him. Nevertheless, it is real, as is our love for Him. We don’t need movies or pictures to know and love the real Christ. We behold Christ by faith, and He is the object of our affection.
We are in no less a privileged position than the Apostles, for though we do not see the Lord Jesus, we love Him, and we have a “joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8). When He returns, then His servants “will see his face” (Rev. 22:4); indeed, we will see Him as He truly is (1 John 3:2).