The English word beauty ultimately stems from a derivative of the Latin adjective bellus meaning, "pretty, handsome, charming, fine, pleasant, nice" which is intricately related to the Latin bonus, which means "good" or, "virtuous." (source: www.dictionary.com) From the word's very inception, the deep connection between beauty and goodness is evident. Just as in the English, the biblical narrative, originally spoken and penned in the Hebrew tongue, sees the interweaving of goodness, beauty and truth from the very beginnings of creation, "God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good," (Genesis 1:31). In Psalms 50:2 we read, "Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth."
Psalm 96:9, as rendered in The Message, gives us this stunning command, "Bow before the beauty of God, then to your knees - everyone worship!"
Is this how we feel when we gaze up to the cross on this day?
Over 700 years before Jesus walked the earth, the prophetic sight of Isaiah caught a glimpse of Jesus and what was to be his destiny. What he saw caused him to gasp in bewilderment, and declare that for those who would actually see this coming Messiah, they would not believe it. Could this really be the one they hoped and longed for? "Who believes what we've heard and seen? Who would have thought that God's saving power would look like this?" (Isaiah 1:1 MSG) Later in the text we are told that, at least by the most base of human standards, "he had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him ... like one whom people hide their faces."
When we look to the cross what do we see? Who do we see? Can we discover the goodness, beauty and truth that is evident here? Can we see the beauty of Jesus in the ashes of a cruciform life? Can we see that it was here, in this stunning display of upside down glory, that Jesus "disarmed the powers and authorities, (making) a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross?" (Colossians 2:15, parentheses mine). Our liberation is inherent in the crucifixion. The beautiful life is ever in its shadow. All that is good, and pleasant, and right, aligns itself here. At the foot of the cross. "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Galatians 6:14)
The cross is not a means to an end just as the resurrection is not an end in itself. It is the work - the glory - the beauty - of the cross that gives the power of the resurrection its meaning. Indeed, without the power of the resurrection surging through our faith, our lives and our love, we are of all people, "most miserable" (1 Corinthians 15:19), yet it is this very power that not only sustains us along this cruciform, narrow, eternal pathway, but that allows us to see and embrace goodness along the way. To experience beauty where there should only be sorrow and despair. To know the strength of joy and the sanity of peace that we find in the finished work of Christ. To hold in sweet tension, death and life. Meekness and power. Justice and mercy. The now and the not yet.
"I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:10,11 NIV)
As counterintuitive as it may be to our TikTok, commercialized and self absorbed understandings of beauty, the image of the crucifixion, both seen through the physical and spiritual eye, may just be the ultimate reflection of all that is beautiful.
Can we see it?
"Bow before the beauty of God, then to your knees - everyone worship!"
Ah, indeed, this is Good Friday. This is Beautiful Friday!
"Bow before the beauty of God, then to your knees - everyone worship!"- David Ruis