Thursday, March 12, 2009

Man Enough

All right, I’ve had it. I’m sick and tired of the way Jesus is portrayed in art, fiction, and even theology. You know exactly what I mean. All the classical paintings that make Jesus looking like an asthmatic surfer. The pale, frail, almost skeletal Jesus. And popular “Christian art” is even worse. The Jesus surrounded by cute, fluffy lambs and smiling, 20th century children. (Ever notice how many of those kids are blonde?) The Precious Moments Jesus. I’ve heard of Jesus meek and mild, but this is Jesus bland and insipid.

Blech! Does that Jesus impress you as the kind of man who threatened the authorities enough that they crucified him? Is that the same Jesus as the one who told the Laodicean church, “I am about to spit you out of my mouth” because they were “lukewarm—neither hot nor cold”? (Rev. 3:16)

Let’s get something straight. Jesus was a man among men. His disciples, with the exception of Matthew, were men who worked with their hands. He himself had the rough, work-hardened hands of a stonemason. Yes, you heard that right. Jesus was not a carpenter, at least not in our understanding of the word. The word used to describe his and Joseph’s trade was “tekton”, meaning builder. The European translators saw that and thought of European houses and decided he was a carpenter. But even a quick look at Israel of Jesus’ day will show you that people built out of stone. Wood was rare and two-by-fours couldn’t be picked up at Lowe’s or Home Depot. Jesus learned stonemasonry from Joseph. He quarried, selected, shaped and set stone. That kind of gives a new meaning to thought that we are “living stones”, doesn’t it? (I Pet. 2:5)

At any rate, Jesus wasn’t some pale, wan ascetic who looked as if he would fall over in a strong wind. He worked out of doors, with his hands, in a rough, hard trade. He walked everywhere he went, on hard, dusty roads. He was a man respected by other men. He inspired loyalty, and even fear.

Yes, fear. Look at what happens in John 18 when the soldiers, officials, chief priests, and Pharisees came with “torches, lanterns, and weapons” to arrest him.

Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, "Who is it you want?"

"Jesus of Nazareth," they replied.

"I am he," Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground. (John 18:4-6)

There they all were, a whole crowd of them, including soldiers with weapons. Yet when Jesus speaks, they draw back and fall down.

Tell me that’s not a mighty man!

The next time someone tells you Jesus is not manly enough . . .ask them if they have the guts to let someone pound spikes in their hands and feet.

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