Jesus doesn’t seem very manly to me. Using only the mental images planted in my skull-full-of-mush as a Sunday School regular circa 1982-1990, the Jesus I’m looking at pets lambs, is surrounded by little children, and wears a dress.
Fashion trends aside, how we think about Jesus – even the imaginary picture in our heads – is important. A.W. Tozer wrote in The Pursuit of God that what you think about God is the most important thing about you. Jesus, being fully God and, in fact, the ultimate revelation of God (see Col. 1:15) is an especially crucial piece of the God puzzle. That’s why it’s so good for us to see the whole picture, the final and triumphant picture of Jesus, and not let our mind’s picture of him be too skewed in any direction.
For example, at Christmas we think of Baby Jesus:
Baby Jesus is the definition of meek and mild (queue Away in a Manger), at least in the 10 minutes he’s depicted in Christmas pageants the world over. But when is the last time you imagined Baby Jesus crying when he needed a diaper change or nursed? Sure, he was perfect but even God-incarnate babies have limited communication channels. I find that if I forget the humanity of Jesus, the terrible two, poopy-panstsed, skinned-knee humanity, I deprive myself of the whole revelation God intended to give.
Then there’s Walk on Water Jesus:
The walking on water scene in Matthew 14 has entered many of our heads as an event that shows Jesus having unattainable perfection and gets abused as a holier-than-thou epithet. No one likes someone who walks on water or seems to think they do. This attitude bleeds into my imagination as I marvel more at Peter’s faith (wavering though it is) than Jesus’ trust in God that makes walking on water possible.
Who is this guy, anyway?
Which leads me to Voodoo Healer Jesus:
Even in his own day, people tried to project onto him their idea of what he could/would/must do for them. Jesus was often confronted by many who just wanted him to solve all their illnesses and problems like he was some kind of mysterious, voodoo healer-man. And he, interestingly, often obliged. The Gospels give us glimpses of him bum rushed by townspeople, wading through them to the point of sheer exhaustion. But he was also careful to clarify that he wasn’t about the miracles and anyone who seeks him – then and for all time – for the miracles misses the point (see John 6:22-44). Whatever my illnesses are, real or imagined, Jesus is willing to heal them but there’s so much more to him.
Finally, Broken Jesus:
This is the tough one, right? “This is my body, broken for you” is an integral part of our faith. Every Good Friday (and every time we take Communion, or preach the Gospel, etc.) we rightly remember that he was stripped, beaten, broken. The last thing I would say is that we should not enter into his brokenness to marvel at it and let it change us.
But I find something happens if my image of Jesus stays here. He was broken to heal my brokenness. The powerful part of the story is the love dramatically displayed in Jesus’ willingness to suffer and die. His love, not my brokenness, is amazing.
Do you have any pictures of Jesus stuck in your head? I’m guessing that you do. Here’s my (unsolicited) advice. Keep your images. Season them with a little reality. Love Jesus as you encounter him in the scenes you imagine.
But never forget those scenes are for a purpose:
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS
Faithful and True.
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called
With justice he judges and wages war.
His eyes are like blazing fire,
and on his head are many crowns.
He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.
He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.
The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.
Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.
“He will rule them with an iron scepter.”He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.
On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS
Put that in your imagination and smoke it.
Eyes of fire, robe dipped in blood (his own, incidentally), and a thigh tattoo. Now that’s a manly Jesus.
This is Conqueror Jesus who:
- Became a human baby to show you and me how to be human
- Trusted God to the point that the wind and the waves, even water molecules, obeyed him to show us that we could trust God, too
- Gave himself to healing the multitudes even when it wearied him and gives himself to you today
- Suffered incredible amounts of pain, scorn, and derision that we should never be afraid again
Baby Jesus, Walk on Water Jesus, Voodoo Healer Jesus, and Broken Jesus have their moments of relatability. But all of that experience is wrapped up in Conqueror Jesus.
All of those moments, and stories happened so that he could claim the title Conqueror Jesus.
Is Conqueror Jesus able to handle your guilt? He paid for it.
Your shame? He was shamed and came out vindicated.
Your sorrow? They called him Man of Sorrows.
He didn’t get so fierce by living a cushy life.
Could Conqueror Jesus be worth trusting with your hopes and fears, dreams and losses?
When you imagine Jesus, and I know you do, what Jesus do you see?
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