The writer of Hebrews is not issuing a threat, he is simply stating a literal fact of spiritual beauty. Spiritual beauty can only be seen by one who possesses it. It is a spiritual anomaly. Physical beauty can be see by one with a deformed body, but spiritual loveliness is invisible to one with a deformed mind and depraved heart. It would be of no benefit to visit an art gallery, stand before a masterpiece, or even place your hand on the canvas because the problem is not a matter of distance from the eye, but rather the distance from the soul. You might stand in front, just under the eye of the portrait and think that there is nothing unique, lovely or special. In fact, you might think it rather plain.
That’s exactly what the onlookers in the great gallery of the New Testament did. They were drawn to Barabbas and were driven from Jesus. The reason for this is that there was something familiar in the person of Barabbas. They saw something of themselves in him. He was strong, athletic, muscular, just what the who’s who of that age would have pointed to as the image that should be promoted. But the beauty of Jesus was different. It wasn’t muscular or massive or even majestic. This would not be the portrait of a person who would lead a great army. It was the beauty of holiness. It was the beauty of self-control. It is the same sort of beauty that the sea holds. In its still, calm, controlled waters are found tremendous force and strength.
That’s the reason why, when those in the great gallery of the Bible looked upon the face of Jesus, they couldn’t see the Lord – it wasn’t the view of Lordship that they held in their heart. As a result of not being in their heart it was not found in their eye. Simply put, what we see is a reflection of us. We admire that which we see in ourselves. If we worship and follow and admire Barabbas it is because Barabbas is in us. We are not drawn to the opposite side of the gallery from that where our own nature hangs.
So, we are drawn by our holiness, not our sin, to the face of Jesus. And even when we come with the weight or shame of sin, it it not the sin that brings us. No one can see Christ’s beauty except by His beauty. Only love can see love. Only purity can view purity. Only that which is of God can gaze on Him. So, we’re not brought to Jesus through contrast but rather by resemblance. Though He stands on the mountain and us in the valley, it is by His light that we see Him. If you are attracted to Him, it can only be by Him.
So, in your dust and ashes, look with discerning eyes and see that there is gold behind the dust and there is fire underneath the ashes. The view of His beauty is itself the prodigal’s best robe – only by His holiness could you have seen His face.