Grant’s Rants on The Real Jesus
How can we know the real Jesus?
Icons of the Orthodox Church, stained glass windows in European cathedrals, and Sunday School art in America all depict a placid, tame Jesus. Yet the Jesus I met in the Gospels was anything but tame.
The political climate at the time of Jesus birth resembled that of Russia in the 1930s under Stalin. Scarcely a day passed, in fact, without an execution. During his lifetime, revolt was in the air. Visitors to modern Israel cannot help noticing the similar plights of Galilean Jews in Jesus day and Palestinians in modern times. The Jews staked their future on a king who would arise and lead their nation back to glory. And so Jesus the Christ entered the world amid strife and terror, and spent his infancy hidden in Egypt as a refugee.
During 33 years on earth, Jesus was raised in a poor family, learned about poverty and family squabbles and social rejection and verbal abuse and betrayal. Indeed the suffering endured on earth served as a kind of learning experience for God. The Biblical author of Hebrews reports that Jesus became a sympathetic advocate for us. Because of the Incarnation, Hebrews implies, God hears our prayers in a new way, having lived here and having prayed as a weak and vulnerable human being.
Jesus was a friend of sinners. He commended a groveling tax collector over a Godfearing Pharisee. The first person to whom He openly revealed Himself as Messiah was a Samaritan woman who had a history of five failed marriages and was currently living with another man. With His dying breath, He pardoned a thief who would have zero opportunity for spiritual growth.
I view with amazement Jesus uncompromising blend of graciousness toward sinners and hostility toward sin, because in much of church history I see virtually the opposite. We may give lip service to hate the sin while loving the sinner, but how well do we practice this principle? Increasingly, I fear, the church is viewed as an enemy of sinners.
What is God like? The Apostle Paul boldly called Jesus the image of the invisible God. Jesus was Gods replica: For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him. God is, in a word, Christlike. In this visible, scaled down model we can discern Gods features more clearly.
Jesus introduced profound changes in how we view God. Mainly, he brought God near.
Jesus reveals a God who comes in search of us. Above all, Jesus reveals a God who is love. The Bible affirms, God is love, and cites love as the main reason Jesus came to earth: This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
And in Jesus not only do we have a window to God, we also have a mirror of ourselves, a reflection of what God had in mind when he created us. Human beings were, after all, created in the image of God; Jesus reveals what that image should look like.
Most important: No one who meets Jesus ever stays the same.
[Excerpts from The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey]