Exodus 33:20, ‘…you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.’
Isaiah 50:6, ‘I hide not my face from disgrace and spitting.’
No human being can see the face of God and live. This is the reason that YHWH hides Moses in the cleft of the rock on Sinai when He passes by in His glory—should Moses have seen the unveiled face of the Lord, he would have been slain by the majesty.
And yet, in Isaiah, we read of the ‘Servant of YHWH,’ one who—like YHWH on His throne—will be ‘high and lifted up’ (Is.52:13+6:1) and glorified. And this servant will *not* hide his face…indeed, he will open his face to disgrace and beating and mockery…and that face will become so marred that its human form will almost be lost and those around him will turn their own faces away in horror (Is.52:14+53:3).
Why do I mention these two faces—the face of YHWH, hidden in majesty, and the face of the Servant, exposed to shame? Because John tells us that these are, in fact, the same face.
In John 1:14-18, the Evangelist echoes Exodus 33 and tells his readers that the glory Moses longed for and yet was unable to see has now been revealed in the flesh of the incarnate Word. The face hidden in majesty on Sinai is now revealed in the flesh of the only begotten Son. And that face is revealed with greatest clarity precisely in Christ’s Passion, precisely in the moment that He does not hide His face from shame, but receives the beating, the mockery, the afflictions and the cursing that we are due. It is exactly here, on Calvary, when He hides not His face from disgrace (Is.50:6) that the face hidden in glory on Sinai is revealed.
But I thought we could not see God’s face and live? That remains true. To see the face of God revealed in the flesh of the slain and risen Jesus IS to die….either to die with Him to our sin and be raised again to New and True Life by faith…or to die spiritually under the condemnation of our rejection of Him in anticipation of our final death at the judgment. As on Sinai, so on Calvary, we cannot see the face of God and live.