Not the Usual Picture of Jesus

When I think of Jesus, the words that first come into my head are words like this: Savior, Lord, love, forgiveness, grace, mercy, help in time of need. And I find great comfort and peace in thinking about Jesus this way.

So when I read John’s description of Jesus in Revelation chapter 19, it’s a little shocking to think of words like this: king, judge, warrior, ruler, powerful, truth, justice, punishment. Frankly, I feel frightened and discomforted when I think of Jesus in these terms.

And it makes me want to ask, “Will the real Jesus please stand up?

Am I right to be comforted by thoughts of Jesus? Or should I be frightened by him… frightened of him?

The answer, as we’ve seen so many times in the Bible, is that Jesus is “both/and.” And perhaps I’m going against the grain here, but I’m going to argue that “both/and” is not only who Jesus is, it’s also exactly who we would want him to be.

When I’m seriously wronged, treated unjustly, or injured by the selfish, greedy, arrogant, envious acts of others, I want to know that there’s justice in the universe. I long to know that there is someone “officiating” this game called life, someone who is interested in fairness and rightness.

If you don’t like the sound of this — of a Jesus like this — it may just mean that you haven’t yet been truly, deeply, seriously wronged in life.

Then again, when I’m the wrongdoer (which I all too frequently am), and I feel guilty and ashamed of the hurts I’ve caused God and others in my life, I want nothing more than mercy and forgiveness. I want to know I’m loved unconditionally, and will be shown grace by a Savior who doesn’t demand that I earn his love with my goodness.

The following picture of our Lord’s anger at the sin and rebellion he sees in his world is without question a frightening — even terrifying — picture of him. But, as John says here, this is the Savior who is Faithful and True.

And this means that Jesus is also faithful to his promises to forgive your sins and love you. And he remained true to you all the way to the cross, where he bled and died for you. He remained faithful and true to you all the way to the empty tomb, where he rose again, and now lives at the right hand of the Heavenly Father, constantly interceding for you in love.

Let this picture of Jesus — this image of his faithful and true grace — be the picture and the image that lingers in our hearts, even as we acknowledge the truth of (and the need for) the picture John gives us here of a Jesus who fights back against sin and injustice.

“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:11-16, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Monday, December 28, is Nehemiah 9:1-37, Revelation 19:11-21 and Psalm 148:7-14.

Lord, I know that I deserve your justice, your anger and your punishment. I am sinful, and I have far too often rebelled against you. Thank you for remaining faithful in your love and forgiveness toward me. Please be gracious to me and give me what I do not deserve. Give me instead what you have earned for me through your perfect life and innocent death.

Header image based on "Jesus Christ Wallpaper" by spurgeon1888, CC By 2.0

Next Time You See Me

Jesus had been arrested and was being interrogated by the High Priest, the highest appointed religious leader of the Jews. Clearly, this official didn’t want to accept what he’d been hearing about Jesus.

Some of the people were making what he considered to be outlandish claims about the man. Naturally, he wanted to know if Jesus would dare make the same claims for himself. So he asked Jesus point-blank: “Are you the Messiah? Are you the Son of God?”

Even today people will say things like, “Jesus was just another man — just like you and me. Yeah, he was a good man and a wise man. But that’s all. He never really claimed to be the Son of God. He never made himself out to be ‘the Chosen One’ or ‘the world’s Savior.'”

Well, those who believe that might want to take a second look. The gospel writer, Mark, records what happened when Jesus was confronted directly with these claims by the High Priest.

He demanded to know. Were these things he was hearing just the misguided assertions of others? Or did Jesus himself make these claims?

Not only did Jesus clearly answer the High Priest’s direct question. He also promised him, “The next time you see me, there will be absolutely no doubt in your mind who or what I am!”

“Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ 

‘I am,’ said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven'” (‭Mark‬ ‭14‬:‭61b-62‬, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Monday, March 9, is Leviticus 19:1 – 20:27, Mark 14:43-72 and Proverbs 6:30-35.

Lord, some are reluctant to recognize who you are right now. But I know that when you return, every knee will bow before you. I am sorry for the all too frequent times when I fail to recognize you as the Son of God by taking my sins too lightly. Help me not to treat your grace as cheap. Thank you for being my Savior. I eagerly await your glorious return and my release from sin and the pain of this fallen world.

Header image based on "Interrogation" by Kapoutsis, CC By 2.0