“Jesus” (Pt. 2)

Jesus with the childrenIn the first chapter of his insightful book The Jesus I Never Knew, Christian author Philip Yancey shares about the subtle transformation that occurred in his perception of Jesus as he grew up, one that happens for many of us. As a child, he heard Bible  stories and saw paintings that depicted Jesus as friend to children and lambs. (You probably know the basic stories, and you’ve very likely seen both images depicted somewhere in your life!) The Jesus that Yancey knew as a child was a comforting one, a person who encouraged us to be nice to and love one another.

When he entered his upper level studies, however, Yancey’s perception of Jesus began to change. First he had to wonder why someone who encouraged us to love and be nice was put to death. Then, as he studied and memorized texts, Jesus (as he describes) “grew remote” to him. No longer was Jesus the comforting presence he once knew, but was an object of study and belief. Yancey writes that at such a time he was “wary, confused, questioning.”

Thankfully, Philip’s spiritual journey brought him to a new perception, a re-discovery of Jesus that touched his heart and mind, a re-connection with the man whose life has so altered human history that our very way of describing the year is based on his (approximate) birth! Philip’s book goes on to share about his journey and his discoveries about who Jesus is, compared to who he had thought (or been taught) Jesus was.

Hopefully, we all come to the point in our lives where we begin to encounter Jesus on our own, setting aside the images and filters that others had used to convey knowledge of Jesus to us. When we do so, we begin to shift from knowledge of Jesus to relationship with Jesus, the resurrected, living Lord of life. However, such a change in our spiritual journeys does not happen for us all in the same way or at the same time, and we very likely will find ourselves constantly having to adjust and re-align our perception of Jesus to the reality we encounter.

So as we continue to contemplate “Jesus” this week, I wonder: What was your earliest perception or picture of Jesus? How would you describe – in words, stories, or images – who you were taught Jesus is?

I invite you to join the conversation, and please share your comments below!

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5 responses to ““Jesus” (Pt. 2)

  1. My earliest recollection of Jesus is that he was a secret desire of mine. I had a picture bible, and was fascinated by pictures of his kind face … but because Mom is Jewish, there was this unspoken impression I had that he was somehow “forbidden” and that I should learn about Moses instead. I don’t want to make it sound like she ever told me that I couldn’t read about him, and she certainly never denied his existence, she just said “He was a man and that’s all we believe about him.” So I would look through the old testament for a while and then secretly skip ahead to the new testament to read about him. I was probably six or seven at the time … and didn’t understand a lot of what I was reading, but was always drawn to those pages and those pictures.

    So there you go … my first image of Jesus is as forbidden fruit. I wonder what that says about me …

  2. Growing up I always thought of Jesus as a lover of children. In my childrens Bible there were plenty of pictures of Him with a kid on each knee, telling them stories or giving them hugs. Between “Jesus Love Me” and “Jesus Loves the little children”, the idea that Jesus is a friend of kids was pretty well implanted in my brain.

    • I love those images, Katy, and grew up with them too. I’ve got some of the same ones in some of my Bibles. But they can definitely contrast with the picture of Jesus we see in the Gospels, overturning tables, frustrated with his disciples at times, etc! Jesus is all these and more…

  3. Jesus… for me growing up Jesus was an idea that someone developed in their mind, and tried to cram down my throat. That is a bit harsh, but it is what I felt about the reality of Jesus. I Never Cared About or Knew Him really and didn’t until I was probably in my late 40’s.

    I battled with the concept of Jesus and God (rather vehemently) verbally and internally and never realized until later that maybe that was the plan, but not until I actually excepted the fact that Jesus is.

    I don’t fight with it as much anymore, there are times I find myself questioning what’s happening. I think Jesus doesn’t mind that, he probably grins at me knowing it will be what it will be. Do I love Jesus now? Yes I Do.

    • Ed, I think a lot of folks have negative impressions of Jesus because of how Christians have treated them. A seminary prof here this week shared about some Unitarians at the school, who were amazed because “we never knew there were Christians like you” (meaning open to dialogue, discussion, etc). Sadly, too often the name of Jesus is mistreated by those who claim to love him.

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