He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Hebrews 1:3 (ESV)
Maybe I have been watching Antiques Roadshow too much, but when I read this verse recently, I immediately thought of the potter’s marks that are impressed on the bottom of clay pots. Many times, there are fake marks on pots to make them appear authentic and more valuable than they are.
The word translated above as “the exact imprint” is the Greek word charakter (χαρακτὴρ). It is where we get the English word “character” from.
Strong’s Concordance notes that the word can mean a graver (the tool or the person), the engraving, the figure stamped on something, an exact copy, the express image.
Thayer defines it as “the exact expression (the image) of any person or thing, marked likeness, precise reproduction in every respect (cf. facsimile).”i I never thought of being a facsimile in a positive light, but this article from StudyLight.org was enlightening:
“The word ‘express image’ in our text is once again a metaphor and suggests the idea of a visible outward reproduction of the inward nature of that which is original. A similar idea is illustrated in a fax machine. A ‘fax‘ is the outward visible form that we can examine in order to see all of the characteristics of the inward image stored in random access memory that the human eye cannot possibly otherwise behold. The application the inspired Hebrew writer wanted his readers to recognize is that Christ metaphorically is our ‘facsimile’ of the Father. Through Him we are able to see all of the divine qualities that make up the natural essence of the invisible God.”ii — Rick Calvert
Jesus came as a “facsimile” so that we could see and come to know the invisible, unseeable God (Exodus 33:20). He came stamped with the exact character of God. God’s character has been much maligned of late, actually, from way back in the Garden. But look at Jesus and you see God.
“When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. John 12:44-45
Or as the Message translates it: Whoever looks at me is looking, in fact, at the One who sent me. Jesus came to earth as a human being to show us what God is really like.iii Who He really is.
No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. John 1:18
Jesus was the exact charakter/character of God expressed in a man here on Earth. He bore the true Potter’s mark. The way he did that was to completely and utterly yield and submit to the will of the Father, for he said, “I do not seek my own will, but the will of Him who sent me” (John 5:30).
He loved people, he healed people, accepted the rejected, he spoke the truth in love, he offered second chances and mercy, he knelt down and washed their dirty feet, he touched their open sores, he suffered their pain with them, he was angry at sin and oppression and hypocrisy, he was passionate for the holiness of God and His temple. He accepted the suffering and humiliation of the cross and died for us all.
And the most amazing thing is that we can bear the Potter’s mark too if we, like Jesus, yield to His forming hands and submit to His will. If we take up our cross and follow Him. Otherwise, we may have an imprint on us, but it won’t be the charakter of God. We will be a fake, a forgery, a counterfeit.
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NASB)
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:29 (ESV)
You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. John 13:13-15 (ESV)
Image: Judith Pearce, Ian Sprague. Bowl. Marks https://flic.kr/p/cPjZ9C
i Joseph Henry Thayer, D.D., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1901)
ii Greek Thoughts by Rick Calvert https://www.studylight.org/language-studies/greek-thoughts.html?article=34
iii for a fuller and excellent discussion of why Jesus came see Why did God send Jesus at gotquestions.org https://www.gotquestions.org/why-God-sent-Jesus.html