While serving on the pastoral staff of a large church one Sunday morning, an artist from our congregation hung one of his paintings of Jesus on a highway overpass leading to the church. The painting wasn’t a portrait of Jesus holding some lambs or preaching in the Jerusalem Temple courts.
It was shocking portrayal of Jesus hanging on the cross, body mangled and blood streaming down his head and body.
A little later that morning, a woman walked into the entryway where I was standing and approached me.
“I was on my way to a different church when I noticed a painting on the overpass,” she started. “Have you seen it?”
“No, I haven’t,” I replied.
“Well,” she hem-hawed. “You should go out there and see it for yourself. It’s a gruesome painting of Jesus on the cross. It’s terribly violent. I think you should take it down. You know, we don’t want to give people the wrong impression.”
The wrong impression…of what?
In today’s conversation, we’re going to look at the wrong—and right impressions we have of Jesus. The implications of this just might alter the way you live.
Genesis 8:7. Here’s an interesting insight from the Bible Background Commentary: “Unlike pigeons or doves, which will return after being released, a raven’s use to seamen is based on its line of flight. By noting the direction it chooses, a sailor may determine where land is located. The most sensible strategy is to release a raven first and then use other birds to determine the depth of the water and the likelihood of a place to land.”
Genesis 8:9. Here’s what the Bible Background Commentary says about the use of doves: “The dove and the pigeon have a limited ability for sustained flight. Thus navigators use them to determine the location of landing sites. As long as they return, no landing is in close range. The dove lives at lower elevations and requires plants for food.”
Genesis 1-9. Has anyone else noticed how often the phrase “be fruitful” is used up to this point? I counted five times through chapter 9.
Genesis 9:18-28. For years I asked myself, What’s the big deal with Ham’s sin? But then I remembered that if Moses wrote the book of Genesis, he also included the commandment to honor your father and mother (Exodus 20:12). Also, this section mentions that Ham was the father of Canaan. If the children of Israel were about to enter Canaan, this curse on Canaan would give them added confidence on conquering the land of people destined to be slaves.
Matthew 4:17-24. Jesus’ central message was that the kingdom of heaven (or kingdom of God, they’re basically the same) was near or at hand. Of the four Gospels, this message is most prominent in Matthew. Some of the most discernable evidence of the kingdom being at hand was the presence of healings and demonic deliverance. We’ll take a closer look at the kingdom in coming weeks.
Matthew 4:19–20. Disciples normally chose to become students of a particular rabbi, rather than a teacher calling his own disciples.
Psalm 4. This was considered a nighttime psalm.
If you were to survey your neighbors or coworkers and you asked them “What do you think Jesus was like back in the day?” my hunch is, they would reply with something like:
He fed the poor
He talked about love
He taught about God
While it’s true that Jesus was all the above, he was so much more than that.
Take a look at Matthew 4 23-25 from today’s reading:
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.
This is a good summary of Jesus’ ministry. Some of Jesus’ actions could be construed as politically correct: he taught in the synagogues and preached the good news of the kingdom. But he also did some things that were very politically incorrect: he had a healing ministry and prayed for people who were demon-possessed. He also proclaimed that he was the only way to God (John 14:6). And he died on a cross.
As an heir of Christ, called to join Jesus in furthering his kingdom, I so easily avoid some of Jesus’ risky practices. I feel safe praying for healing when it’s just me and the sick person. But in front of others? Even more embarrassing is trying to deliver someone from demon possession. What if nothing happens? What if the person wasn’t even demon possessed?
Somehow, I think I gravitate too easily to Jesus, meek and mild, when really, he’s the roaring lion of Judah.
- If Jesus ushered in the kingdom, and healing and deliverance from demons were evidence of the present kingdom, why don’t we see more healings and deliverance today?
- What did Jesus do in his earthly ministry that makes you feel awkward? Why does it make you feel this way?
- How has our society created Jesus in its own image?
- In what ways would you like to resemble Jesus in helping others?
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