In 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!