I got an awfully big response a while back when I wrote about what is expected of us during Lent. I always get a big response from my Lenten musings, but the big hubbub wasn't exactly to due my theological or philosophical point of view. The wailing and gnashing of teeth was all about the pictures I posted of Jesus.
They gave everyone the creeps.
I will admit, my goal in using them was met. Lent isn't about an easy going Jesus, sliding around the office giving everyone high fives and shoulder rubs. Lent is to align ourselves with the suffering part of Jesus.
There are lots of part of Jesus. Advent and Christmas is about the human side of Jesus, for example. The Word made Flesh and dwelt among us. Pentecost is about the Divine side of Jesus.
It did give me pause, however, that everyone found the modern Jesus pictures so creepy. We do have to ask ourselves why. I think there are several explanations.
The easiest one is that Jesus is just so....eighties...in these pictures, with His pastel shirts and high rolled up sleeves and His ancient desk top. Not that we'd be any happier to see Him with an Iphone. Still, I maintain that eighties fashion is depressing. I think we might find a forties, or fifties Jesus much more palatable. Those styles are now timeless vintage wear.
Like my outfit!
We don't want to see Jesus stuck in the eighties, like mullet Jesus here.
But I think the whole "get that disconcerting picture of Jesus outta here" reaction goes much deeper.
I find that people have a very deep connection to their pictures of Jesus and how they picture Jesus.
For example, this picture of Jesus came out in the nineties. I think it was in "Scientific American" or some such magazine that a group of scientists tried to figure out what Jesus might have looked like, being a Jewish man living in 1 AD. While there wasn't a massive recoiling of the Peanut Gallery, the portrait did not catch on, to say the least.
I think it's because He doesn't look very bright or very kind. We know that Jesus was very smart and very kind.
Of course, the polar opposite of that picture of Jesus is the one with which we are most familiar. He's the one every Grandma has had in her bedroom for a more than a hundred years.
To be honest, I'm not fond of this portrait either.
I call Him "mosquito bite Jesus", because He looks to me like the kind of guy mosquitoes love to bite. We have pictures of Him at every age, too! I can't think that I've ever seen a Baby Jesus in a manger with dark hair! Have you?
My favorite Jesus portraits are along these lines. Here he looks like He has some energy to do all that walking and talking and have all that compassion and love for everyone. That really takes a lot of energy. It's really hard to be compassionate when you're tired.
Your job during this season is to picture a person who suffered terribly on your account and never complained except to mention, right at the end there, that He was thirsty. Suffer a little with Him and toughen up.