In the last two posts, we looked at some of the myths surrounding the resurrection of Jesus. The final resurrection myth is actually the one accepted by most Christians – the idea that Jesus rose from the dead looking the same as He did before His death (if not better); bearing relatively minor evidence of the traumatic torture He endured (namely the nail and spear marks).
On the surface, this may not seem like a big deal. After all, the Bible doesn’t dwell much on Jesus’ physical appearance before or after His death. So why should we?
The truth is we shouldn’t. But the problem is that we do!
Making God in OUR image
It’s in our nature to want to “humanize” God – Making God into the epitome of the human ideal makes us more comfortable with Him. However anything that does not conform to reality can ultimately lead to deception. This post will explore the implications of this.
Believe it or not, many Christians today are guilty of worshiping an idol. What’s even more shocking is that the worship of this idol is not done in secret or behind closed doors; no, this idol is openly and brazenly worshiped in Christian churches! His likeness is painted on the walls, and his image takes a prominent place in our minds. We sing songs to this idol and pray in his name. Church leaders tell us we should strive to be more like the idol in our everyday lives.
His likeness is painted on the walls, and his image takes a prominent place in our minds. We sing songs to this idol and pray in his name. Church leaders tell us we should strive to be more like the idol in our everyday lives.
We call this idol “Jesus”, but the Jesus that has been popularized by contemporary culture (and much of the contemporary church) is not necessarily the Jesus of the Bible.
The image of our idol
When you close your eyes and imagine Jesus. What do you see? If you are like most Christians, you see a tall, thin, handsome Caucasian man with a beard and long brown hair dressed in a white robe and sandals. Guess what? You’ve just pictured the false idol!
Why do I make this claim?
Well, while we do not know exactly what Jesus looked like when He was on earth, we can be sure that He looked nothing like the image derived from European medieval and renaissance art.
Jesus was obviously not Caucasian. He was a middle-eastern Jew and would thus have had the skin tone and ethnic features of a middle-eastern Jew. We have no information about His height, but it is very doubtful that He was thin. Jesus was a carpenter by trade. He probably spent the better part of 25 years working with His legal father Joseph learning his craft; which included cutting and lifting heavy planks of wood and stone. That kind of life does not lead to a slight build. Long hair on a male was not acceptable in that culture , and we know from the Bible that Jesus was not handsome.
Imagine instead, a stout, fairly muscular middle-eastern man with average to below-average looks, short think black hair and a beard. Now put him side by side with the “Jesus” you previously imagined. What a contrast! But as I said before, His physical appearance is only a minor and superficial aspect of the idolatry. The more damaging aspect is what many imagine the nature of Jesus to be.
The idolatry goes beyond physical appearance
The “Jesus” that is usually worshiped in church is warm and fuzzy magic human teddy-bear. He is gentle, harmless, and kind. He is cajoling, forgiving, and accepting. He is mild-mannered, passionless, and bland. He is weak, abused, and impotent. Isn’t this what we are told He is – “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild”?
Yet in the scriptures, we see a Man who commands the respect of rough-hewed fishermen; whose very presence leads them to give up their lives and follow Him .
We see a Man who boldly walked into holy buildings and claimed He was ushering in the Kingdom of God .
He viciously insulted religious leaders and claimed He knew their doctrine better than they did
He taught many with the authority of God , but deliberately denied others access to key knowledge .
We see a Man who physically assaulted thieves in the temple, and threatened to drown anyone who harms a child.
He doled out the lowest of insults to His enemies, and knocked down soldiers with the force of His voice.
We see a Man who lost His patience, got exasperated with His friends.
He insulted a woman who has a sick daughter and she had to ask repeatedly before He would heal her.
He let a good friend die to prove a point.
He told us that His presence will cause division in our lives and alienate from our families.
He had compassion for our moral short comings, but He never tolerated sin.
He made it clear that marriage was between a man and a woman.
He warned that following Him will make you hated and despised.
He promised suffering and told followers they may be killed for serving Him.
He taught about Hell and punishment twice as much as He taught about Heaven.
He is a Man who loved tough, fought fiercely, cared deeply, and died passionately.
This is the REAL Jesus.
He is complex. He is hard to deal with. He sometimes makes us uncomfortable. He’s a little scary. He’s rarely seen in modern churches, and most Christians scarcely know who He is.
How did this happen? Why has the Jesus presented in the scriptures been sanitized, sterilized, neutered, de-clawed, and emasculated?
Many Christians have made the same mistake the Pharisees made. They’ve embraced the aspects of Jesus that they liked (love, peace, compassion, kindness), and ignored the parts that make them uncomfortable (passion, judgment, holiness, exclusivity, wrath, accountability).
All that is left is an artificially sweetened shell of the real thing; the milquetoast hippie served up to many Christians on Sunday morning.
But why is it so important that Christians see Jesus as He really was?
If one accepts the death and resurrection that leads to salvation, does it really matter how accurate our view of Jesus time on earth is?
Absolutely! The spiritual landscape post-resurrection is not a passive one. The Great Invasion may have ended with Jesus being ultimately victorious, but Satan has not stopped fighting!
Although there is nothing he can do to change the outcome of Jesus’ work he can still do damage by preventing as many people as possible from receiving salvation and being discipled as Jesus commanded. And deception about Jesus is an effective way to do it.
The reason is that a false idol leads to a false world view
And unfortunately, when the harsh reality of the real world meets the false expectations of that imitation worldview, it can result in a failure of faith.
As Jesus promised, the Christian life is not easy. Christians will have to endure all manner of despair, frustrations, ordeals, and calamities.
If a person is led to believe that salvation leads to a life filled with nothing but sweetness and joy, what will happen when a conflict arises that tries their faith? Their world will shatter! They will feel helpless and lost. Their faith may waiver and cause them to succumb to fear.
Satan can then step in and lead them to doubt God with questions like: “if Christians are wrong about God’s “goodness”, what else they are wrong about? Is there even a God at all?” Satan can take up residence in those doubts and lead them down the road to ultimate rejection of God and His plan.
On the other hand, if we are willing to accept the reality that Jesus said that life would be difficult, then when those difficulties actually arise, there will be no crisis of faith because expectations match reality!
Finally and most importantly, Jesus holds Christians accountable to know Him as He really is! The bible is clear that when all is said and done, only those who have a relationship with the real Jesus will take part in the meaning of life. Those who intentionally followed a false Christ will be left out.
In the next post we will take a contrastive look at the real mission and message of Jesus versus the version that is popularized by the secular and “spiritual” world. Stay tuned…
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