The closer you look at the Shroud of Turin, the easier it gets to believe that the most closely examined section of cloth in the world is, indeed, a record of what Jesus Christ endured for our sake.

There’s new attention focused on the shroud this year for a few reasons. First, the History Channel ran a two-hour special, “The Real Face of Jesus,” on March 30. It showed how a computer artist used high-tech imaging techniques to draw 3-D data from the shroud’s facial image. The result is a persuasive presentation and an astonishing “portrait.”

Second, Pope Benedict has directed the shroud’s caretakers in Turin to display the relic this spring — 15 years ahead of its normal 25-year interval. The Holy Father himself will visit on May 2.

Third, the shroud is perpetually compelling. The blood stains, the pollen, the microscopic evidence of rare materials: All point to a scourging, crucifixion and burial in first-century Palestine. And the continuing inability of artists and scientists to explain how the image was created points to something beyond the range of human art and science. It all reinforces the impression of being in the presence of what the beloved disciple observed in the empty tomb when “he saw and believed.”