The Actual Jesus
August 11, 2012 § 1 Comment
C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock
It seems that much of the public discourse on any number of issues is driven by what we determine Jesus to be in our own minds. I think this is because our tendency is to shape Him – and His views – out of our own contexts. And let’s face it, we can make Him to appear amazingly like ourselves!
There was a moment in Jesus’ ministry when He inquired of His disciples as to their understanding of who exactly He was. As they rehearsed a whole host of outside opinions regarding His identity, He asked who they said He was. Peter, ever the first to speak and act, declared Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16). For Peter and the other disciples, Jesus was no longer who they desired Him to be, but who He actually was. This was their turning point.
It took me hours to find the depiction at the top of this post. In the process I was blown away by the massive array of images of Christ through many centuries – there are thousands. He appears in cartoons and comic strips. He is set alongside various celebrities such as Elvis. He is cast in a ceramic setting with the Beatles. He is depicted similarly to Che Guavara. He is smiling, laughing, suffering, weeping and praying. He appears with angels, priests and children. He glows, smiles, prays and teaches. He is dressed royally and humbly. He is in the manger, among sheep, on the Cross, in the clouds and at a well. His hair is long, short, scraggly and coiffed. He is sculpted, painted, drawn and depicted photographically and digitally. The images are historic, traditional, contemporary, abstract and post-modern. They are on a shroud, canvas, brick walls, lithographs and paper. Amazingly, and as with us, these images reflect the ethnicities, contexts and biases of the people who depicted Him in their times.
The image in this post was popular during my early high school years in the 70’s (the 1970’s that is – yes, I am that old). It made Jesus cool to me (perhaps groovy would be more appropriate), and it remains my favorite, because it was a departure from the tame, tender and seemingly wimpy Jesus that we had been accustomed to seeing in Christian circles. I got caught up in the Jesus Movement and this picture loomed large in that chapter of my life. Jesus is ‘Wanted’ because He is a revolutionary, and He calls people to live radical lives. That has stuck with me. As a church kid I think I needed Jesus to be revolutionary, strong and even a bit defiant – because He is.
However during a defining period in my life, I discovered that what I really needed was the true Jesus – the Jesus that can’t be produced by one’s imagination, insecurities or dreams – or even by the ability to rehearse every true thing about Him, but the Jesus who actually is. I needed the Jesus I had resisted – the One I can’t tame or manage who challenges my thoughts, beliefs and practices – One far more radical and revolutionary than I had hoped for – The Jesus who does the shaping and transforming, and not the other way around. I needed a Jesus who wouldn’t excuse my sins, but who could and does forgive them, the Jesus who has grander and richer dreams than my wildest imagination, and the Jesus who refuses to give into my weakness, but who freely enters into it. As much as I fight it, the last thing I need is to limit Jesus to my narrow scope.
Believe me, this trust business isn’t for the faint-hearted. But when I really think about it, until that moment of realization, unless it is Jesus, our trust is somewhere, even in self. And in the end we either become slaves to illusive dreams, or we enjoy living in the wild and radical adventure of being His.
That’s good news, friends…