Who is Jesus? As you were growing up who did you think he was? I think for most of us with any church background he was a nice looking man in his late twenties or early thirties who had long hair and a beard, was holding a child or a lamb, and had a smile on his face. He was kind of like the ultimate baby sitter or an archetype similar to Mr. Rogers (the children’s TV star) that everyone wished they knew and felt safe around. He looked friendly, kind, and gentle. Read Philip Yancey’s (author of The Jesus I Never Knew) description of who he thought Jesus was as a child growing up in the church.
“I associated Jesus with Kool-Aid and sugar cookies and gold stars for good attendance. I remember especially one image from Sunday school, an oil painting that hung on the concrete block wall. Jesus had long, flowing hair, unlike that on any man I knew. His face was thin and handsome, his skin waxen and milky white, He wore a robe of scarlet, and the artist had taken pains to show the play of light on its folds. In his arm Jesus cradled a small sleeping lamb. I imagined myself as the lamb, blessed beyond all telling.”1
Interestingly as Yancy grew up and began rethinking who Jesus was his perspective changed. Let’s read his thoughts at this juncture of his life.
“The more I studied Jesus, the more difficult it became to pigeon-hole him. He said little about the Roman occupation, the main topic of conversation among his countrymen, and yet he took up a whip to drive petty profiteers from the Jewish temple. He urged obedience to the Mosaic law while acquiring the reputation as a lawbreaker. He could be stabbed by sympathy for a stranger, yet turn on his best friend with the flinty rebuke, ‘Get behind me Satan!’ He had uncompromising views on rich men and loose women, yet both types enjoyed his company.”
“One day miracles seemed to flow out of Jesus; the next day his power was blocked by people’s lack of faith. One day he talked in detail of the Second Coming; another, he knew neither the day nor hour. He fled from arrest at one point and marched inexorably toward it at another. He spoke eloquently about peacemaking, then told his disciples to procure swords. His extravagant claims about himself kept him at the center of controversy, but when he did something truly miraculous he tended to hush it up. As Walter Wink has said, if Jesus had never lived, we would not have been able to invent him.”2
1 Philip Yancy, The Jesus I Never Knew (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 13.
2 Ibid. 23.