Thursday, March 15, 2007

image problem

What do you say when you find something like this? Who is this guy? It’s not the Jesus I know. Am I supposed to accept this as the Jesus of the Bible?

I’ve been wondering what people think about Jesus. This track didn’t start with the motorcycle image, but revolved around other, more serious conversations.


Is the meek Jesus of the New Testament, compatible with the revelation of God in the Old Testament? Is this the same God who commanded the genocide of several kingdoms in antiquity? Is this the same God who will judge all humanity and condemn some to eternal torment in hell?


May I share what I believe about this? If we cannot reconcile these biblical images of Jesus, we need to change our thinking to match what the Bible says, because God’s word is infallible, whereas our imaginations, culture, institutions of higher learning, etc., are not.


Even So... said...

Speaks for itself, and NOT for Jesus...

Jennifer said...

Sorry...I just threw up a little in my mouth.

Whoever that wierd "born to be wild" dude is - the one wearing the funky gold crown and hanging ten and holding a bird - is a total "Jesus-poseur." Which is so not cool.

People are used to seeing Jesus in His "lamb-ness," but they don't understand He's running every single planet.
More than just a man; this is more than just a lamb that's dyin' - from Zion -- behold! The resurrected King, the LION!

Thank you, Cross Movement.
Moreover, thank you, God!

Llama Momma said...

Interesting site, Craver.

I've been reading (and re-reading) the book of Matthew since last November. (I know, I'm a freak.) But here's the thing: I am so interested in Jesus. I've been in church for a long time, but Jesus...Jesus is another thing entirely. And He's not who I thought He was. In fact, if I was around when He was, I'm not sure I would have liked him. I like people who are predictable. And the more I read, the more I find that Jesus is anything but predictable.

But my biggest complaint about the "Jesus" pictures? He's too white. Jesus was not white.

Jennwith2ns said...

Llama Momma, I resonate with all of that. I was just thinking yesterday or something that Jesus is kind of uncomfortable and if I had known Him in person I think He would have freaked me out. (Sometimes He does anyway.)

Craver, you're right. We need to realign our thinking to what the Bible says. But sometimes it seems like the picture the NT gives us is NOT the same as what the OT does, so it's hard, and then we just give up and go with our preferences. Or at least maybe I do. Sometimes it's hard to sustain the tension.

Craver Vii said...

Lemme say this: If somebody visiting here wants to get an idea of what Jesus “looks like,” go visit Even So…’s blog. He does a great job of being faithful to God’s Word and that’s better than any silly toy can do.

Jennifer’s back? No way… I heard she died or something. How do I know you’re the real “Hibby?” Welcome back, Sister!!!!

Oh, LM and JeNN, ”if I was around when He was, I'm not sure I would have liked him.” …How raw, unvarnished and honest! That’s a superb reflection! I tend to think that many, many people would be at least a little shocked if they somehow had the opportunity to travel back to AD 30 and hang around for a bit with the real Y’shua.

Anonymous said...

I also am a little taken aback by Jesus as I have been meditating on the Sermon on the Mount over and over for the past several years (LM, I'm a freak too!). Sometimes Jesus puts me on a edge a little because he always asks us to take it to the next level (if someone asks you to walk a mile, go two). And yet Jesus is so full of love for those realize they can't do it on their own. He's so quick to forgive, so eager to save.

Just this week, I heard two "Bible" scholars discussing the gnostic gospel of Judas, which was apparently written in the second century based on information passed down from Judas. They were going on and on about how Jesus wasn't really asking people to lay down their lives and sacrifice everything for him, he really just wanted to help them find out who they really are. Our world has always been confused about who Jesus really is.

L.L. Barkat said...

I recently heard a talk by Don Everts (sp?). I think it was on the Wheaton site. Anyway, he gives this image of Jesus as a "hen in wrestling tights."

Which is just to say that, yes, Jesus can be strong and brash, but he also longs to take us under his wing.

I think that "condemnation" is the furthest thing from his mind. As is torment.

I believe that Jesus is more like God in Isaiah, who says, finally, that he will let Israel go be wild grapes because that's what they want. But he's on the other side, waiting with redemption that takes the torment on himself ("he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities.")

Anyway, you bring up an interesting, difficult topic!

Every Square Inch said...

The site made me laugh - it's absurd.
My favorite is the one with Jesus and the soccer ball doing a bicycle kick - a very challenging kick for most but apparently not for Jesus.

Where do you find this stuff, Craver? :-)

It's not representative of Jesus. It's another shallow attempt to make Jesus relevant and hip. It's a pointless exercise because Jesus IS relevant and more importantly, he is the eternal Son of God, to be worshiped in awe.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Crazy indeed!

Craver, I think it's a mistake theologically to make the Old Testament convey the awesome, holy God of judgment, and the New Testament convey an (at odds) God of love and peace.

The greatest act of holiness in Scripture happens at the cross/Jesus' death. And mercy and grace is throughout the Old Testament.

At the same time, the New Testament reflects the New Covenant which has already begun, in Christ. The old covenant was preparation for that. So that this is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians) to be heralded to all people.

I know you know this. I just want to respond to how I think people come up with a meek Jesus (and indeed, he was) who won't ruffle any feathers (and indeed, he will ruffle feathers, on every side).

Lara said...

I think the Jesus as "everyman" concept protrayed on that site just doesn't jive at all. Jesus met people where they were at, but he didn't pretend to be just like them. He knew each one intimately without having to imitate them. I think we could learn from that. How often to we try to fake being like someone else in an attempt to "reach them for the gospel"? Instead we just discredit it by our lack of honesty.

Just my reaction.

Jennwith2ns said...

Just a thought triggered by Charity's comment: how in the world could information have been passed down by Judas, when he fell out of a tree and exploded at a presumably fairly young age? Did he have his own secret following previous to that?

Craver Vii said...

I gather this last question was rhetorical. But just for kicks:

Did you ever come to realize, in the midst of a conversation that the person with whom you are in dialog, is a genius? (It happened before, with Dr. Erwin Lutzer.) It happened again this week with Dr. Craig Evans. It was almost shocking to notice how much information this man is able to process before I can add two plus two! Not only does he have this amazing super-intellect, but (like my other hero, Dr. Lutzer) was able to communicate in a way that it all made perfect sense and was even fun!

Anyway, he has an answer to the Jesus Ossuary which I've linked on my sidebar. Click on that link, and then on "studies" and you will find a list which includes pdf of What Should We Think of the Gospel of Judas?

Craver Vii said...

One of the things Mrs. Craver and I have talked about is Jesus' sense of humor and playfulness. We have pondered this man who is also by nature God Almighty. Then we think about the time he spent with His disciples. Did he laugh when Matthew farted? Did he play any part at all in practical jokes or wrestle with the guys? I'm not saying for sure that He must have, but I think it's quite possible!

spaghettipie said...

I feel like I'm coming late to the party, but had to add a comment.

I appreciate the sentiment represented by those figurines (commercialism aside) in trying to make Jesus relevant, but agree with the majority that it is theologically wrong. Jesus became one of us - meaning human - but was still his own unique person. I think ultimately these little model represent what we so often to do Jesus - try to make Him into our image, rather than seek to find who we are in Him and conform to His image. The phrase "Jesus is my homeboy" (which I hate) came to mind as I scrolled through the pictures. It's like we're trying to cram Jesus into an image that makes sense to us and that feels comfortable rather than seeking to know who He truly is.

Jennwith2ns said...

I HATE "Jesus is my homeboy," too--although my more secular friends always seem to think I'm going to love it.

I was thinking about these figurines again and it occurred to me that they're kind of like the Smurfs. In the 80s you could buy little plastic figurines of all the Smurf characters who, of course (also like the 7 dwarves) only have one real character trait and are defined by it, and you could pick one with which you identified the most. It seems to me that this kind of "figurining" of Jesus is really just seeing Him as a cartoon character, although it is still an attempt (however self-centered or misled) to identify with Him in some way.

23 degrees said...

Craver, thanks for the link to the, I mean action figures. I am stimulated by all of the the comments and perspectives about them and hope you will allow me to add to the mix.

The action figures of Jesus bring up two questions, but first of all I want to be so bold to say that they are art. (We have all hung worse on the refrigerator, so play along.)

The first question: is it good art or bad art? It's decently crafted, makes a statement, and although we may not agree with it, like it (or would buy it) these creations do the job of provocation. This leads me to second question which I think is more valuable: do these images stretch my small perception of Jesus, the all-God all-man by their provocation?

I think LM made an interesting point asking if she would she like Jesus if she was around when he was because she sees him as too unpredictable. I know that I also struggle to get past the Almighty God part of Jesus and down to the nitty gritty: that he was born in a stable, worked a job and the twelve disciples were normal blokes like us. When many people walked away from him the gospels record Jesus asking one of them if he was gonna walk away too. His response was, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life?" (John 6) Meanwhile, he was making pigs plunge over cliffs, spitting on blind eyes, badmouthing the religious leaders of the day and smiling as people lowered their friend through a hole in the roof. This isn't too predictable, but I wonder if it was refreshingly scary (like riding on the back of a fast motorcycle.)

I think of what these offer compared of all of the religious images we have of Jesus today in Christian bookstores, art galleries and etched in stained glass over the last two centuries. Do these depict a "real" Jesus or a Jesus that we have fashioned? Where do we get our picture of Jesus?

Brennan Manning in his book Ruthless Trust makes the point that transcendence must be combined with immanence. "Transcendence means that God cannot be confined to the world and immanence means that God is wholly involved with us, living in all that is as it's innermost mystery, meaning he is here in his mysterious nearness." He says that the early church In reaction to Arianism (which denies the divinity of Christ) played heavy on Christ's divinity at the expense of his humanness creating a separation that turned the royal priesthood (you and me) and our celebration of the eucharist into an ordained-only affair. As a result our intimate communion, became more and more unapproachable—where it is today for most people turned off by religion.

Are these figurines a better glimpse of who Jesus is. In some ways I think so. The crown of thorns and robe is too much symbolism for me, but they do make me think. Do they rob him of his transcendence in the process? For some, I am sure. For me, I don't know. What I do know is as much as I don't like the art (taste), the art provokes me to think and figure out on my own, who Jesus is: and this is refreshing, scary and a mindful journey I need to make.

Anonymous said...

I really don't see this as being any different than artists painting Jesus as a white man with blonde hair and blue eyes or movies that portray him with American or British accents. I'm not opposed to things like this or even the "Jesus is my Homeboy" thing. The "Jesus is NOT my Homeboy" items are more offensive to me because it seems like the person is trying to stay clear of Jesus. If it reaches out to a culture that has the other option of actions figures modeled after horror movie characters or slogans that are sexually crude, I'll take it. Who is to say that Jesus would not have ridden a motorcycle or use the word homeboy if He were physically walking the earth today? It's not like either of those things are sinful, and we shouldn't make it out to be that way. Homeboy is a term used for a close friend. If that's offensive, then why do churches sing "What a Friend I Have in Jesus"? Same concept, different terminology.

I think many times Christians have Jesus pictured as this quiet nice man. Quite the contrary, He was very bold and in your face. He was love, but His love was/is so perfect that it cannot tolerate being accepting of sinful attitudes. The kind of boldness he had would not be considered very nice by most people. Honestly, I think all sides have at some point in their life crammed Jesus into some image they could identify with.

Craver Vii said...

On the sixth day God created man in His image. Today, without fear, we happily return the favor.

What a friend we have in Jesus...
Jesus is my homeboy...
Tread lightly, people. How many songs will be sung to Jesus as if he is our boyfriend? Let's just make sure that whatever words we use, that in our hearts, we honor Him as Lord, God Almighty.

spaghettipie said...

I mean to add this earlier and reference to LM's comment (re: not sure she would've liked Jesus back then). In my community group Bible study last week we were talking about the man in Miami who says he is the second coming of Christ. As we talked about his radical teaching, his strange requests of his followers and the preposterousness (did I just make that word up?) of his claim, we were suddenly humbled to think that Jesus was probably viewed the same way in His day. Not that I give any validity to the claim of this Miami man (his teachings are clearly contrary to Scripture), but it did open my eyes a little.

PS - Why do I always have to do the word verification twice here?

Anonymous said...

Honoring Him with our hearts. And that is the key, isn't it? Therefore we should tread lightly in criticizing slogans and figures that people people use as a reminder of the relationship they have with our Lord, for they may be honoring Him in the same manner as people do who bear all the other "right" Christian paraphernalia and enjoy movies such as the Passion. And even then, there are people who will bear those items we deem "worthy" and "ok" and still have a heart that is not at all God honoring. We need to be consistent with our criticisms of man-made imagery and be careful not to knock something down simply because we cannot relate to it, because it may be the very tool that opens someone's heart to Christ and because it isn't necessarily a reflection of anyone's heart. God knows our motives, intentions, and the status of our relationship with him, regardless if we have the famous Forgiven picture hanging on our home or if our little sons are playing with Jesus on a motorcycle. I think sometimes we forget how we also partake in the personal-image making of God, we just don't do it in a way that has Him riding a motorcycle.

I apologize for intruding.

Shammickite said...

If someone wants to see Jesus as a footballer or a biker, that's OK. Everyone has a different idea, and after all, there's no copyright to worry about.

spaghettipie said...

Long time - Please don't apologize, you certainly weren't intruding! Personally, I am so glad that you spoke up because I enjoyed reading your comments and felt convicted about being quick to judge the external (the figures) without knowing the internal (the heart). I certainly still have concerns about the way our society tries to put Jesus into a box or turn him into someone we like or feel comfortable with or who looks like us. But I also agree with your (and a couple other people's) admonition to be consistent with our criticism. It reminds me of a book I'm currently reading that talks about labels. We often too quickly accept things labeled as "Christian" as true/good/ok, rather than be discerning. And we often reject truth when we find it outside of the things we do label as "Christian", even though they really are true. It's a fine line that we have to walk with grace, and a love for truth AND people.

Anonymous said...

hmmm. love this topic. love the question. love the thoughtful responses. i was especially struck by 23 degrees. i appreciated the discussion being stretched and challenged. two thoughts come to mind.

1. spaghetti pie touched on it when she said, "We often too quickly accept things labeled as "Christian" as true/good/ok, rather than be discerning." i think as we rethink motorcycle guy we also have to rethink the jesus that is also proclaimed in the church. as LM and others have commented, it doesn't always match up with who we see in scripture. i remember being in a bible study when the TIME magazine cover had a picture of what jesus most likely looked like and a woman gasped and said, "my jesus doesn't look like a terrorist!" i thought, " hmmm, what does your jesus look like because he didn't walk around with a burning heart in the middle and blue eyes.

2. if we begin to get too offended or preoccupied with jesus' true image and not with the image of christ in us, we run the risk of looking like muslim radicals who murder and protest when anyone says anything against allah's image. the thing that distinguishes jesus is that he wants to be most reflected in us. but man, what a challenge, am i an offensive picture of jesus?

Jonathan Moorhead said...

All this "stuff" makes Jesus so trivial. Another one I can't stand is the "Got Jesus?" bumper sticker. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

I like the picture. It challenges our views of what we've been taught. Are we so insecure in our relationship with God that we can't view a picture without screaming, "Unclean!!!".
I'm a big fan of challenging the process and finding truth in the margins.

Pete Juvinall said...

Sorry, totally coming into the conversation late, and in true blogging fasion, I'm sharing my .02.

I think what disturbs me about the picture (and the site) is not so much that the idea is that Jesus steps into our lives and we should be 'taking him everywhere' and that Jesus may actually care about what kind of IT professional I am. It's more disturbing that a company finds it necessary to make little statues of a (white...) Jesus dressed in different outfits. It's just so, oh I don't know, obvious.

It's my general problem with Christian culture. Instead of stepping in and being salt, stuff like this challenges me to look at the container and go 'my, that's an awfully nice girl with a raincoat on...I like the shade of blue...oh, yes I live near a town named Morton as clever'.

In otherwords, I like the meaning, the delivery is a bit screwy.

Craver Vii said...

”Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.” Psalm 145:3 (NIV)

Spaghettipie: Double word verification? I just can’t believe it’s really you! Just kidding; I also have to double verify if I don’t have a response done within ten seconds or whatever the timer is set at. It’s either that, or turn it off, but I’m holding off because that is my spam protection. Sorry about the inconvenience.

Long Time Lurker: You’re not intruding at all. Guests need not be obsequious here, and please do not take it as a personal offense if I do not adopt your position on an issue. I still appreciate the dialog and challenge to think about why I believe what I do.

Having said that, I was thinking about how you said, “we should tread lightly in criticizing slogans and figurines…” Why? We are free to say things like, “That was a stupid commercial,” for shaving razors, hotels, and clothing stores, so why not religious kitsch?

clc: “Run the risk of looking like a Muslim?” That sure is a sign of the times, isn’t it? But you pose a worthy question: “Am I an offensive picture of Jesus?”

Ven: Dude, insecure in our relationship? I just finished reading the first six books of the Bible last week, and the Levitical priesthood was established upon their zeal for the Lord. They were set apart (in a good way) by God, because of screaming, “unclean.” Being insecure in our relationship is not entirely a bad thing. “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, Phil. 2:12b (ESV)

Pete: It sounds like you agree with me that their “marketing” of Jesus could have been done better.

Anonymous said...


People will sell anything.

People will buy anything.

My first thought was that it is yet another attempt to (ok, I know this isn't a word but)de-holy God Almighty.

Do we have ANY IDEA that this, and a million other things like it, belittle the Name of God??????

Is there no reverence, no fear, for our Great and Mighty God?

Apparently not.

Very good comments in here, Craver. :)

The Armchair Theologian said...

Isn't Jesus supposed to be coming back on a WHITE horse, not an IRON horse?

Maybe their bible simply had a typo?

Also, this is why we Protestants are HISTORICALLY (though not anymore) iconoclastic. Any images of God at all wreak havoc on our imaginations and our worship.