I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. - C.S. Lewis (Meditations in a Toolshed)
Such beautiful imagery still cannot fully encompass the fierceness that Christ's stark contrast contains when compared against our blurred and darkened world. Today, while reading through John 1, I was struck by the words that the author chose when penning his letter. Really, it was the frequency through which he uses a few of them.
The first two that struck me were...
- Light - used 7 times within the first 9 verses, and
- see (and all of its tenses) - used 15 times throughout the whole chapter.
Plato's Allegory of the Cave speaks to this. When (L)ight is brought into a dark room, it is in our nature to be curious about it. We want it. However, what's interesting here is that John the Baptist is giving imperative commands to look at it. Shocking! If Christ's supremacy is as the Apostle John describes, then... somethings off here... right? Yes. In fact, though, it's not so much as "off" as it is that something's "on" us. Sin has blinded the eye of perception, and had left us masked from the brilliance of Christ.
That is, until the third word is grasped...
- behold - used 3 times.
What shook me here was the word choice: "behold". It is the command to go beyond "seeing", and into "observing". Now, why not use "see"? Can't it imply "observe" or "understand"? It can. So the fact that a different word is used - which can have a myriad of reasons behind it - should be noted. It reads more intentional. It calls me to stop, and let my sight hold close to something. To let the soul contemplate the weight of what it sees.
I'm not attempting to give an exhaustive exposition of the language, word choice, or the author's syntax. I only want to write to you what it was that spoke to me. As "see" was used a few different ways, "behold" is only applied the one - directly pointing the attention of men to Christ. The beauty that struck me while reading today was that the opening of this letter doesn't simply begin with propositional outlinings, nor can I say that it shyly remains a narrative. Instead, we are given a beautiful synthesis of the two, while still giving us rich insight into the ontology of man's fallen state.
Who wouldn't turn to gaze into the Beam of Light blazing through our shadowed "toolshed"? The sinful man wouldn't. This same testimony is all around us, as Paul begins with in Romans. But yet, we are still in need of being told to "Behold!"
Although the vibrato of Christ's splendor can pierce our dull minds in and of itself, we have always been in need of prophets, preachers, and missionaries. As Paul writes in Romans 10
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
In the study of Aesthetics, a major distinction is always being made between "seeing" and "contemplating". This is no different. Although I can perceive that a painting like Rembrandt's Christ in the Storm on the Lake of Galilee may contain some level of depth, that doesn't necessarily meant that I'm going to be able to fully enjoy it's richness, and give it full, proper praise. I need to have the author, expert, or book tell me more about it. Until then, I'm left to my limitations. I need to be pointed in a more specific direction, so as to appreciate it more wholly.
So, take heed of this caring command, and "Behold the Lamb of God..."