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

When Jesus’ Love Gets Direct

A lot of times we associate directness and bluntness with a lack of tact, or outright unkindness. With the picture many of today’s people have of Jesus, most can hardly imagine Jesus ever being direct or blunt in his speech.

But sometimes the best way anyone can love a person is to get straight to the point. Sometimes the kindest thing we can say to a person is something very, very direct. Blunt, even.

That’s because not everyone is listening from the same vantage point. If a person is listening in order to judge, rather than to grasp, or learn, or empathize, then what’s being said is going through a very thick filter. And that filter can be almost impenetrable.

Unless we can get the person to listen from another position there’s very little possibility of punching through that filter. It’s only when a person moves from the judge’s bench to the pupil’s desk that words — even Jesus’ words — can penetrate to the heart.

Jesus is in the business of penetrating through to the heart. That’s why he doesn’t give up on the chief priests and the elders. Still, he’s definitely having trouble cracking through their filter, and he can’t seem to get them to change positions.

But Jesus’ heart for sinners is huge. So though it’s near the end of his life, he still wants to break through the concrete bunkers their hearts have become. He goes “direct” with them. He addresses the chief priests and the elders with very blunt, challenging words:

“Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.'” (Matthew 21:31b-32, NIV).

It’s clear what Jesus was seeking. Repentance — minds and hearts willing to make a turnaround. Sadly, the chief priests and elders were too busy judging to consider a change of mind and heart.

If you’re struggling to hear or believe what Jesus says, try changing positions. Move from the judge’s bench to the pupil’s desk and see what happens.

Jesus, crack through the concrete bunker of my pride, and help me switch listening positions. Move my mind and heart so that I am willing to turn around, and listen to you from the pupil’s desk. You have so much to teach me. Don’t let me miss a thing! And Lord, if you have to be direct with me to get my attention, then go right ahead. I know that it’s all just love!

Our Bible reading for Sunday, February 1, is Job 22:1 – 24:25, Matthew 21:18-32 and Proverbs 3:21-35.

Header image based on "Second Judicial Circuit" by July, CC by 2.0