The Image of the Invisible God
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (Colossians 1:15)
Facial recognition software has come a long way since it was first developed in the 1960s. In the early days, the computer was slow to match a person of interest to a photograph because it required an operator to identify the eyes, nose, mouth, etc. before the computer went to work. Today, computer programs use highly complex algorithms to recognize faces in real time. The software is used by the FBI and airports for security, by shopping malls to identify buying patterns, and even used by some organizations to track attendance at events.
Facial recognition relies on math to match features of what is seen (the individual going through surveillance at the airport) to what is unseen (the suspect being sought). From an article in Computing News:
Asked whether two unfamiliar photos of faces show the same person, a human being will get it right 97.53 percent of the time. New software developed by researchers at Facebook can score 97.25 percent on the same challenge, regardless of variations in lighting or whether the person in the picture is directly facing the camera.
The match is not 100 percent. The better the photograph — the image — the better the computer can identify someone. The image is a close representation, but it’s not precise.
Colossians 1:15 tells us that Jesus is the image of God. We are able to recognize what is unseen — the invisible God — by what was seen: Jesus. Hebrews 1:3 tells us that
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…
Unlike Adam, Jesus is not made in the image of God. Jesus is the “exact imprint of his nature.” His match is 100 percent accurate.
To know Jesus is to know God. By seeing how Jesus interacted with the people around him, we get to see some of the characteristics of God. Here are just a few examples of what we learn about God the Father by seeing Jesus the Son.
1. Jesus shows us God’s compassion
Jesus was willing to touch lepers — unclean people who were forced to live outside of society.
While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. (Luke 5:12-13)
Jesus’ compassion for this man “full of leprosy” shows us that God loves the sick, no matter how horrifying their wounds.
2. Jesus shows us God’s mercy
The demon-possessed man in the country of the Gerasenes must have frightened any who came close. He lived among the tombs where the people had tried to bind him with chains. Though he was rejected by everyone in town, he found mercy with Jesus who healed him.
As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (John 5:18-19)
When Jesus showed mercy to the demon-possessed man, he showed us that God loves outcasts, no matter how frightening or bizarre their behavior.
3. Jesus shows us God’s impartiality
Some prejudices are so ingrained, they get passed down from one generation to the next. But Jesus rejected ethnic biases and instead met individuals where they lived.
A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) (John 4:7-9)
Jesus treated this Samaritan woman with dignity, despite everything he knew about her. By reaching out to the woman at the well, Jesus showed us that God is not prejudiced and “shows no partiality” (Romans 2:11).
In writing to the Colossians, Paul was countering a heresy that Jesus was not fully God. Less than a 100 percent match, if you will. The church faced confusion about who Jesus really was, and Paul’s letter was a reminder that Jesus was the exact representation of God.
Just as facial recognition allows airport officials to identify a person walking through the scanner, Jesus allows us to see the invisible God. By learning more about Christ, we learn what a compassionate, merciful, and loving God we serve.