Hanging on the wall above this laptop is my favorite painting depicting Jesus. It’s by Frances Hook. (See the link at the end of this post.) Decades ago, this artist portrayed Jesus with unkempt hair, a hint of dust on his clothing, and the look of a guy who knew how to work with his hands. She painted someone who could stare into your eyes and know what’s going on. This is the Jesus I’ve known as I’ve read Scriptures over my lifetime. This is who I want to come alongside me in my old age–someone who’s not a mythical, unapproachable über-mensch.
I bring this up because it’s possible that you might want to touch up your image of an authentic Jesus—to discover in him physical and personal characteristics that could embolden and motivate you. To find the things about Jesus that could travel deep into your spirit because they ring true, because they help you see your life clearly, because they offer you hope about younger generations of Christians.
Those of us who are liturgically inclined are now deep into Epiphany season—a time when the lessons read in worship help us frame Jesus fully. Each Sunday we meet him as a hard-scrabble guy, dealing with the crushing cruddiness of human nature. We see him outwit his critics, lay hands on sick-and-dirty people and teach what’s righteous and wise. We follow him knee-deep into the problems of his times and sweating buckets as he wrestles God’s love for the world past the barriers of platitudes and niceties. There’s grit in his handshake, steel in his eyes and deep appreciation for people in need.
As I get older, I’m glad to know that God came into history as fully-human, fully-divine—an example I can follow joyfully!
For this and other depictions of Jesus, including those from other cultures, see: