The mental image I have of Jesus is one I got years ago from a children’s Bible storybook, I think. You’ve probably seen it before, and pretty much everything about it is wrong. He’s fair-skinned, which he wasn’t. He’s long-haired, which he probably wasn’t. He’s effeminate, which he most certainly wasn’t.
Why do artists so often make Jesus look soft? Even Jim Caviezel as Jesus in The Passion of the Christ looked effeminate. I’m pretty sure Jesus had more backbone than most artistic renderings display. Take this story, for example.
And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. And when evening came they went out of the city (Mark 11:15-19).
This bothered Jesus, probably because of two issues: These men were using the temple as a place to make money, distorting its primary purpose. And they had effectively stolen the only place in the temple where non-Jews could worship by turning the court of the Gentiles into a kind of bazaar. No one could worship in all that chaos.
Whatever the exact reason, Jesus ran them out.
By the way, this is not the Jesus of the murals. The effeminate, picture-Bible Jesus wouldn’t ever do something like this, and if he tried, no one would take him seriously.
But these guys did.
Before they knew what was happening, the carpenter’s son from Nazareth had put them out on the street. The man they saw that day didn’t have soft features and tender hands. He had a scowl on his face and determination in his eyes.
I love how the Jesus of the Bible responded appropriately to each unique situation, sometimes with kindness, sometimes with firmness. His hands were soft enough to cradle the babies and calloused enough to convince these men he meant business.
His spirit was gentle enough to extend compassion to an adulterous woman but firm enough to show little patience for people who willingly distorted God’s house of worship.
It’s important for us to have a well-rounded image of Jesus as well. He was tender and compassionate with the weak and sinful. But he was firm and unyielding to those who obstinately persisted in sin.
And I think those two pictures of Jesus will be present when he returns at the end of time. He will extend grace and mercy to those who’ve walked with him in humility. But those in rebellion will see the same Jesus these money-changers saw.
I’d just as soon never face that Jesus. —Chuck