This week we sang, TWICE!, the following songs. I’ve attached a Spotify playlist but if you enjoyed any of the songs consider purchasing them, preferrable directly from the artist:
- Only King Forever by Elevation Worship
- Holy by Matt Redman
- The Glories of Calvary by Sovereign Grace Music, arranged by Norton Hall Band
- Revelation Song by Jennie Lee Riddle
I did an image search of “Jesus” to find a header image for this post because, hey, why not? And while I was searching I thought to myself, “Well this is revealing.”
I found images of Buddy Jesus, lots of iconography, some stained glass. I found an image of a bobble-head Jesus sipping a pint of beer (though I assume Jesus prefers a dark red cab), a beautifully composed shot of a homeless man (bringing to mind, Matthew 25), Lego Jesus (appalling), and a whole lot of Lily-White Jesus kitsch (even more appalling).
Jesus is an interesting figure in history. Christ, unlike maybe any other person in history, demands consideration. He’s problematic. What do we do with this guy? CS Lewis says we can declare he is either a lunatic, a liar, or Lord. I like it though it may be simplistic. We could just as well say he never existed. But arguing such reveals certain prejudices and denies plenty of historical proofs to the contrary. Argue either of these points or any other of the countless points demonstrates my point well. Jesus looms large in our historical and cultural imagination asking us the same question he asked his disciples in Ceasera Phillipi:
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples,“Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked, “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16.13-16
Jesus tells Peter that he’s going to build his church and the gates of Hell won’t prevail against it and, in a completely frustrating and baffling moment, says “Don’t tell anybody.” Christ then predicts his own death and ressurection. The Gospel of Mark says that, “he spoke plainly about this.” That didn’t stop Peter from being confused though. Peter had some misconceptions about what it means to be the Son of the living God (don’t we all?) so he rebuked Jesus. Right? Kind of presumptious of Peter, don’t you think? Anyways Peter tells Jesus that Jesus is wrong and that death will never come to Christ. Peter assumed only glory, and a decidedly human glory.
Jesus replied, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Maybe Jesus is suggesting that mere glory is a chiefly human concern. The concerns of God being hard, difficult, and undesirable?
I paraphrased the opening sentence to AW Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy at the start of our time singing:
What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.
It is curious the sort of images I found searching for Jesus. There he was trapped in stained glass and the rigid form of the icons, mocked and marginalized as a bobble head and Lego minifig, turned into a baby kissing cliché, painted to look like a ruggedly good looking white guy, infantilized into Family Friendly propaganda.
No one is immune to projecting their preffered image on to Christ. In my life, I’ve turned Jesus into a social justice humanist, an avid supporter of my political agenda, a doctrine to be defended, an object of my emotional affections, a genie, and plenty of other things that he is definitely not.
After putting Peter in his place Jesus takes him and two others up a mountain. At the top of this mountain Jesus was changed, his face shone like the sun, his clothes becoming like light. Something akin to the description in Revelation 19 when he comes in glory to judge the living and the dead. And then Moses and Elijah appear, plucked out of history
“Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.'” (Matthew 17.4) Peter, always with foot squarely in his mouth, offers Jesus, Elijah, and Moses the pleasure of building each of them their own private cage.
When we encounter the glory of God we realize that he is too great for us to behold. So we try and put him in a box, etch him in glass, systemize him into a proper orthodoxy, put his face on a poster endorsing our candidate, ignore him and say he enver existed, spring-load his head so that it bobbles on a rough roads, doodle him in the corners of our sermon notes. But he is better than every doodle we could ever imagine of him and he demands an answer of us:
“But what about you? Who do you say I am?”