Seeing Christ in Christ

By: Brian Robertson


“Every once in a while, life can be very eloquent. You go along from day to day not noticing very much, not seeing or hearing very much, and then all of a sudden, when you least expect it, very often something speaks to you with such power that it catches you off guard, makes you listen whether you want to or not.”
Frederick Buechner

It was the kind of a day we all have had, and perhaps you’re having one today, when the air seems heavier, gravity meaner and more relentless, the world is hiding a problem that is just around the corner but you’ve already caught the scent and now wait for the first or second or hundredth shoe to drop. What it is, you’re not sure of, but you know the free floating angst of some afternoons, and you know the waiting.

Perhaps it’s a child who has just been caught more than a few miles down the wrong path and now something has to be done. Maybe it’s the fact that what you have in the bank and what you owe are all out of kilter. Could be you have a friend who just might not be your friend at that moment, and you found it easier to let out a harsh string of words than to be even remotely aware of the ways of the heart, the journey of forgiveness.

Depending on your view, it might be you’ve been stunned by looking at the world looking into it’s own abyss, the fearsome stupidity of poisoning the sky, the people who pander for your vote by saying what it is they think you want to hear in a voice from inside the rapidly tilting reality of the funhouse, the latest dead who, if they came to your house and knocked on your door, you’d have no real word of explanation or of support, no answer to the ghostly, “Why?”

Most of us are both of and in the world, aware of the sadness that seems to lurk just beyond our ability to make the light reach. Perhaps you are one who is a mouthpiece to this or that political party, this or that denomination, this or that metaphysical theory that sounds too good to be true, largely because it probably is, and we secretly know it can’t sustain the illusion we so desperately need.

Perhaps you believe that God spoke once in the person of Jesus, inspired a few writers 3 generations later, makes an appearance in this or that letter to somebody at the back of the Bible before one crashes face-first into Revelation’s coded reporting of the events of the time that we try so hard to project into the future. God gave us a shot, sent his son down to pitch in the Majors, and it all ended up in a shutout. Now, God’s biding his time until sometime in a nonspecific future He is coming back to separate the weeds from the good grass.

Then again, with all these problems and difficulties, it could very well be that you are just crazy enough, just hopeful enough, to think that after the scrapbook known as the Bible was put together the words didn’t end and neither did Jesus’ Christly presence in the world. Sure, things today do happen faster and louder and crazier than before, but, underneath it all, if one examines one’s life, God is an often unnoticed participant.

I have a reason for writing all this, and it is not about you (although it may be), but, rather, about me. When I was driving the other day, some mixture of all that came before was clattering around in my head. It was an unusually hot afternoon with the usual traffic, and as I came to a large intersection and the stoplight, I could see something going on to my left at the corner on the esplanade.

There were three policemen, wearing white latex gloves, and at least one paramedic. They broke the view of their concern, but I could see what looked like a man sitting down on the cement, but his body seemed oddly twisted. Another foot or so and I got a different view.

The man was probably in his late thirties, curly dirty blond hair, sitting on the concrete, head down. The legs I saw were not his legs, but, rather, the legs of another man who was lying on the cement and he was the one whom the paramedics were trying to work on. One look told me that both men were homeless. The second man was unconscious, but his head was resting not on the cement but on the left upper leg of the first man, the one with the insane flock of curly hair, cushioned with his cheek resting on faded blue jeans.

The first man was looking down into the second man’s still face and with amazingly great care he was gently stroking the second man’s head, speaking to him words I couldn’t even begin to hear. The police stood around, watching, the paramedics were trying to jockey into position to make their assessment, the traffic light was red, the traffic and entire world was suddenly and hesitantly at a stop as if holding it’s breath.

The curly haired blond man was looking at his still companion, only his hand moving as it gently brushed across the unconscious man’s face. For just a moment, but a moment that would come back to me again and again over the next few days, I knew the man’s face. It was not the face of a homeless bum, as some would have it, or a victim of society’s ability to ignore, as others would say. As clearly as I can see the tree outside my window through the window beyond one side of my monitor, I saw the face of Jesus. This was not like Christ, not just similar to Christ, not as if it was Jesus.

‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matt 25:40)

All this was no cheap cinematic superimposed image, because what I saw with had nothing to do with the eyes but everything to do with something much more real, the heart. I saw what I didn’t see, if you will, as if what the entire scene pointed to became out of necessity what it actually was, perhaps as the bread becomes body and the wine blood not as a grainy special effects on the screen but higher, above all things. But perhaps it was more than that, perhaps I’m just trying to translate what I saw into the comfortable structure of words when it was, on so many levels, more than those words could even point to. For just a moment, as I saw the least among us tending to the fear, pain and perhaps dying of another who was also the least, it was a strange back and forth of images, of that which is Christ helping that which is Christ, like mirrors in a barber shop that reflect each other endlessly to the collapsed point of infinity beyond which we cannot see or even imagine.

The light changed. The traffic moved. The afternoon coughed. As I drove away, I left the police and the paramedics behind, the two men on the concrete, but I could not lose and did not want to lose the identity behind it all, the raw certainty of what I had seen, although it was over the moment my intellect (such as it is) tried to start labeling and dissecting and explaining.

Two miles away, I still could see a glimpse.

I have nothing else to add, except to say that I don’t want to hear about a God safely tucked away in a book, any book, and about a throne and wrath, about hell beyond what we, ourselves, have succeeded in creating for each other.


Rev. Brian Robertson



[This came to mind after reading your post, Brian.

Christ is the population of the world, and every object as well. There is no room for hypocrisy. Why use bitter soup for healing when sweet water is everywhere?

- Rumi]


It’s been a long time since something brought tears to my eyes.

I think this post choked me up because I need to ‘see’ Him again with that certainty myself. I’ve been experiencing moments of doubt.

There’s an old song by Grand Funk Railroad called ‘I Can See Him in the Morning’ that has some quotes at the beginning from children that were apparently questioned about God and Good and Evil. Lately, I’ve been afraid that it’s ALL in our imaginations, born out of our extreme fear and desire, but that for all of us, ‘we die when we die’.

Here’s a web site where you can find the song. (I don’t know how to create the link.) Have a listen: