But time fails, and words fail immensely more, to tell this thing. Let him who would know that transforming sight get quietly alone with Isaiah in the temple, and on bent knees linger unhurriedly, and listen, and watch, and breathe out his prayer, and strongly wait until something of the same brooding Presence be discerned that transformed this young Hebrew messenger of God.
Then let him get alone with the Moses of the New Testament. For there is no man who was so utterly transformed, and so quickly, as the man on the Damascus road. The whole course of his character and life was radically changed as by a lightning touch. This is the most striking illustration of all. No man so reveals in himself the tremendous transforming power there is in the sight of the Christ as does this high-strung son of the Hebrew race.
But—words are such lame things. They cannot tell the story here. They are all one has to use. Yet they'll never be understood except as the light of experience shines upon them. When any one attempts to talk of such a thing as this of seeing God or Christ, his words seem so poor and lame and under the mark by the man who has had something of the vision. And they either are meaningless and uninteresting, or else they seem overstated, and quite beyond the mark to one who has had no inkling in experience of the thing itself.
I recall distinctly the experience of a Danish friend in Copenhagen. She had been trying to read in English a certain devotional book, but said she couldn't seem to grasp the meaning of the English words. They eluded her, and so the book didn't help her much.
Then she went through a time of sore stress of spirit in the sickness and death of her mother. A new experience of the nearness of God came to her. And then happening—as it seemed—to pick up the English book again she was amazed and delighted to find how much better and more quickly she knew the words and sensed the meaning.
It is only as the heart is fired that the brain awakens. Experience gives the meaning to language. Without experience it is a dead language in meaning even though it be one's own mother tongue. Only the man who has caught something of the vision of Christ's face can understand the strong words used in talking of such a vision.
It is most striking to notice that even when the glory of God's presence was hidden beneath human wrappings in Jesus it still could be felt. Men felt that presence though they knew not just what it was they felt, nor why. When the glory came yet closer in the coming of Jesus, it must be well covered up for the sake of men's eyes, that they might not go blind at once; but its power of attraction could not be wholly hid.
So really human was Jesus in the outer circumstance of His life that His brothers of the home couldn't believe he was essentially different from themselves. But the attraction of that presence was felt constantly even through the human hiding of it.
John of the Wilderness instinctively recognized that here was more than the man he saw, and so obeyed His word. The crowds gathered eagerly in the Jordan bottoms in even greater numbers than to hear John, drawn by a power they felt they must yield to, and did yield to gladly.
From the first the crowds gathered thick about Him, Jewish aristocrat, Samaritan half-breed and sinful outcast jostling elbows in their eagerness to hear, drawn by a power they could feel, but could not understand any more than they could withstand it. The children loved his presence and touch.
The bad in life were as resistlessly drawn up to a new life as the Greeks were drawn from clear beyond the blue waters of the Hellespont into His presence. The crowds were irresistibly drawn to follow on that last eventful journey to Jerusalem even while they felt "afraid."
It was the sight of the glory on the Mount that drew faithful John in with Jesus, and held him steady that awful night in palace and courtyard, and that later brought poor blasphemous Peter back for forgiveness. The two walking to Emmaus found their hearts all aflame, though they supposed it was only the chance stranger of the roadway they listened to.
Even those who hated Him were compelled to recognize the wondrous power of His presence. The Nazareth hands that itched to seize Him were restrained by His presence as He passed through their midst. Ten times did the Jerusalem crowds attempt his life, and ten times were they restrained by a power in Him that they could neither understand nor withstand.
The men officially empowered to arrest Him return empty-handed, confessing the overawing power of His words. That last week the leaders that were hotly plotting His death felt the strange restraint of His presence while He quietly sat in their very midst, and swayed the crowds.
In the garden soldiers and priests alike were felled to the ground by the power of His presence. So it always has been. No one has ever had a sight of that Face, and gotten used to it, or gotten over it.