What of Jesus?

Just spring cleaning my blog and came across these words… this was an assignment for the Life of Jesus class I took last year for university… some interesting thoughts and reflections here… as you read, ponder to yourself how you would answer the questions… 

WHAT OF JESUS?

Part 1

How do I imagine him?

When I think about Jesus, I regard him as both human and spirit.  I know he was born to this world, that he lived a “normal” Jewish life with his family, that he started his ministry at 30 years of age, that he died on the cross and rose again, and that he now lives in heaven.  I also understand that he sent his spirit, the Holy Spirit, to live among us and guide us in our lives.

What do I imagine Jesus to look like?

I used to think of him as the blond-haired, blue-eyed, pale-skinned Jesus that I saw in all my Sunday school classrooms and books, with a light shining all around him wherever he went.  As an adult I came to understand that Jesus was Jewish and Jewish men had brown hair, brown eyes, and dark skin.  It was also customary for them to have long hair and beards.  He would have worn a tunic and sandals, and he would have dressed very modestly.

One clear portrayal I have of Jesus is a stained glass window in a church I attended for a few years.  The window portrayed Jesus knocking on a big, wooden door without a handle.  Someone pointed out to me that the door represented our hearts, that it had to be opened from the inside, and that Jesus had to be invited into our lives.  I love that thought.  I was later married under that stained glass window.

What do I imagine Jesus doing?

I seem to picture Jesus with his arms slightly spread apart, and his hands open.  He is so welcoming to whomever will come close to him – no matter their past, their present or their future.  No matter if they are two years old or ninety-two years old.  No matter if they have made one mistake in their lives or one thousand mistakes.  He seems to me to be whatever that person needs from him in that moment.  When I think of Jesus, I see that it would be so easy just to fall into his welcoming arms and know this great and wondrous love, and feel complete peace.  Maybe that’s a glimpse of heaven.

I see Jesus laughing throughout his day, playing with children, talking with companions, walking along the dusty roads of Israel, praying alone on mountaintops, healing people from all kinds of maladies, visiting the temple, feeding thousands, speaking to a few or a few hundred, and standing up to the religious leaders of the day.

What kind of crowd did Jesus travel in?  Or was his a solitary life?

Jesus loved people.  He grew up in a family setting, with a mother and father, brothers and sisters, helping in his father’s carpentry shop, visiting the temple, and attending many different celebrations of life.  His first miracle was performed at a wedding, and he was with his family and friends.  At the start of his ministry, it seems like he ventured out alone or with only a few followers.  As Jesus grew in popularity, the crowds became larger.  There are a few instances in the gospels that tell of Jesus spending time alone, praying to God.  I think this is where he found his strength for whatever was coming next.  He spent time alone in prayer as he chose the twelve disciples, he was alone in the wilderness for 40 days before starting his ministry, he was alone in the garden of Gethsemane just before he was arrested and crucified, and he seemed to travel alone after his resurrection as he appeared to different people.  He was also alone as he ascended into heaven.

What mattered most to Jesus?  What did he think he was about?

Jesus was about making God the Father known to the world.  He was about bridging the gap between what was and what is to come.  The old order and the new order.  He came to bring change for the better, to allow people to know God personally, to see him in flesh and blood, and to free people from a life of harsh religion.  He came to show us what love really means and how to live that out in our world.  He brought about the kingdom of God to earth.  Jesus also opened up the barriers between God being solely a Jewish God, and God being the God of whoever chooses to believe in him.  He came to bring us the good news of eternal life for those who believe, of a world beyond this one, a place where we can all live in peace and harmony, in the presence of God.

Part 2

What reactions do I have to my own depiction of Jesus?

It seems to me that I have studied the Jesus of the Bible for most of my life.  I feel like I know all the stories and all the Sunday school answers about Jesus.  I’ve heard many people discuss the life of Jesus and what that life means to our world today.  I understand that the way he lived his life – full of love and care for others, always seeking wisdom and truth, rebuking those who upheld religion above the kingdom of God, constantly sharing the good news of salvation with those he met – is one that mentors me and provides a role model for me.  I know there is no one else who ever lived that could compare with Jesus.  He is my Saviour.  I believe all that the Bible says about him, and I look forward to meeting him in person one day.

What has informed my opinions?

My church upbringing definitely informed my opinions.  I’ve been attending church since I was born, with a break for a few years during my teenage years, when I was working out for myself whether or not I wanted Jesus in my life.  I had to find a faith of my own, instead of the faith of my family. For most of my life, I have attended a Baptist church.  I also spent time each summer at a christian children’s camp, belonged to a christian youth group and post-secondary group, and married a man who was a youth pastor, and is now a pastor to young adults.  A few courses at Bible college taught me much about Jesus as well, and knowing many other christians with a strong faith has helped to grow my understanding and faith in Jesus even more.  Asking questions is an important part of learning for me, and those willing to provide answers or share their perspective have also helped me work out my faith in Jesus.

How personal is my depiction? How much is it like the view others have, and does that matter?

My view of Jesus is currently much like the view that others in my social circle have.  I know what the Bible says about him, I know what non-christians and christians alike think of him, and so far I’ve managed to live a life of deep faith without taking too many risks.  There has been suffering in my life, and even christianity doesn’t spare us any of the pain of life at times, but my faith has certainly made all the difference in coming through trials and hardships with a positive outlook and hope for the future.

Recently I have been learning that to follow Jesus is not so much about what he can do for me, but what I can do for him.  That’s where his words and his life come into contrast so greatly with my own.  That is why I am so interested in this course and focusing on his life more and more as I grow in my faith.  The question that is currently very heavy on my heart is What does it really mean to follow Jesus?  I no longer think it has much to do with the religion I’ve been catering to for most of my life.  Beyond that question, there is the question of how to raise my children into a faith in Jesus that is alive, vibrant, and real.  The best way to teach something is to model it for others.  So the faith I hope to see in my children is the one I seek after for my own life.

Part 3

What are my main objectives for taking this course?

My main objective for taking this course is to focus right in on Jesus and his life.  I hope to gain a new perspective from the professor and fellow students enrolled in the course.  I am excited to be able to take this course as one of my final electives, and to enjoy my last semester all the more for being able to ponder the life of Jesus with other students.  This course caught my eye two years ago, and finally the timing is right to be able to follow through with the course.

What would I most like to have learned once the course is complete?

I would like to gain a fresh perspective on the life of Jesus – away from the religious environment in which I find myself constantly.  I would like to comprehend a little more of what true Christianity looks like, compared to a life of religion.  I would like to come to a deeper understanding of how my North American lifestyle can morph into something that more closely resembles Jesus’ life.  This may mean taking more risks and stepping out of my comfortable life more often than I have in the past.

Ultimately, I hope this course will help me with the journey of moving the knowledge of Jesus and his life a little further away from my head, and a little closer to my heart.

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