“His eyes were like a flame of fire” (Revelation 1:14)
In a Harry Bosch detective story, best-selling author Michael Connelly tells of a murder victim who, while being hanged, had a bucket placed over his head. Connelly explains to the reader that killers who want to dehumanize their victims often hide their faces, perhaps blindfold them or in this case, cover their head with a bucket.
Rapists, he says, will often blindfold their victims or place a pillow over their face. They cannot stand the pain of looking into the eyes of one whom they are destroying.
The eyes tell so much of what the soul experiences.
Someone asked a medic who had served during the Vietnam war, “How do you handle the constant suffering day after day?” He answered, “Never look a dying man in the eyes.”
Two small, mostly unnoticed, insights from Scripture come to mind.
“And the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking Him, and beating Him, and they blind-folded Him….” (Luke 22:63). Of the four Gospel writers, only Luke gives us this detail. Did they cover His eyes so they would not have to look at them? I wouldn’t be surprised.
And then this one…
While our Lord was on trial, Peter hung close but when pressed, denied he even knew Jesus. “‘After about an hour had passed, another man began to insist, saying, ‘Certainly this man was also with Him, for he is a Galilean, too.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are talking about.’ And immediately, while he was still speaking, a cock crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, ‘Before a cock crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:54-62)
All four gospels record that Peter denied the Lord three times, all but John says he wept bitterly following this devastating breakdown, but only Luke tells us the trigger that started the tears flowing was Jesus’ eyes fixed on Peter.
We can only imagine.
What must that have been like?
What did people think when Jesus’ eyes took in the whole room and stopped when they lit on themselves? How did that feel?
Jesus’ opponents dared Him to heal a man on the Sabbath. They brought into the synagogue a man with a withered hand, planted him right in front of the Lord, and they waited. And watched. “After looking around at them with anger, grieved at the hardness of their heart….” Jesus proceeded to heal the man. (Mark 3:5)
If the soul is in the eyes, as everyone says and as artists claim, then imagine the eyes of the greatest Soul who ever lived, the very Son of God. What must those eyes have been like?
In The Revelation, John sees the great and small standing before the Lord in judgement. “And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb…” (Revelation 6:16). Was that in order to avoid looking Him in the eye? Those who have fought against Him and resisted Him and persecuted His children will want to avoid those eyes, I’m confident.
But for believers, the eyes of the loving Savior are kind and gracious. “The eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His” (2 Chronicles 16:9).
Lord, let your light, light of your face, shine on us.
That we may be saved; That we may have life
To find our way in the darkest night.
Let your light shine on us.
(lyrics to “Shine on Us” by Phillips, Craig, and Dean”)