In the Likeness of Jesus

In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s, “The Great Stone Face,” a man named Ernest grew up in a village renowned for a natural wonder on a nearby mountain. Nature had majestically carved in the side of that mountain the features of a human face so realistic that from a distance the Great Stone Face seemed alive. All the features were noble and the expression was grand and sweet. Ernest, like all children of the nearby village, was told of an ancient prophecy that at some future day a child would be born in the vicinity who was destined to become the greatest personage of his time and whose countenance, in manhood, would bear an exact resemblance to the Great Stone Face.

Upon learning that the promised prophet had not yet appeared, the young Ernest prayed he would live long enough to see this prophet. Growing older, he never forgot that prophecy learned at his mother’s knee. It was always on his mind. And as he grew into manhood, he allowed the Great Stone Face to become his priority – meditating upon the countenance, looking to it for comfort, reading stories about it, speaking of it to those who would hear.

Years passed and many came into the village claiming to be the promised one. But each time Ernest went out to meet the pretenders, he came away disappointed and sometimes almost despondent. Although the imposters claimed the honor, Ernest knew better. As a result of his devotion to the Face, he had become an expert on it. He, of all people, would know the one when he came. After each disappointment Ernest would return to the Face, peer into it and ask, “How long?” The granite features seemed to reassure him, “Fear not, Ernest, the man will come!” Ernest became an old man, with his hair now gray and the movement of his body slowed. The one great sadness of his life was that he had never seen the prophet long foretold.

Then one day a famous poet that had written odes celebrating the Stone Face came to visit Ernest. They enjoyed each other’s company but were saddened because neither had seen the Face fleshed out in human form. As the day drew to a close, time came for Ernest’s daily discourse on the Great Stone Face. Each evening inhabitants of the neighboring villages assembled to hear him speak about the Great Stone Face.

As the poet listened, he grew teary-eyed. The being and character of Ernest were a nobler strain of poetry than he had ever written. With the Great Stone Face in the background, the poet suddenly realized what should have been obvious all along. Ernest, he noticed, had a mild, sweet, beautiful countenance that looked like the Stone Face itself! Moved by an irresistible impulse, the poet threw his arms aloft and began to shout to all who would hear – “Behold, behold! Ernest is himself the likeness of the Great Stone Face!” And with that all the people sitting about looked at Ernest and noticed that what the poet said was true. The prophecy was fulfilled! Ernest had become like his ideal.

Hawthorne’s story reverberates with a great spiritual truth – what gets our attention gets us. When Jesus becomes our priority and focus, we begin to reflect his glory to those around us. I love what Paul said about this in 2 Corinthians,

“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

How much of his image are you reflecting?

To His Glory,
Pastor Bill

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