What Was Jesus Like?

Does it matter what Jesus would look like? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I saw a post made on Facebook meant to be an objection about how Christians here in the West at least have a white Jesus that they follow. Surely, Jesus was not like this. I happen to agree. I find it implausible to think of Jesus as a white man like myself and many people I know here in America.

But if you go to Africa, you will find a black Jesus. If you go to Asia, you will find an Asian Jesus. Jesus is often made in light of the people who worship Him in that area. We think Jesus is just like us.

Some of you might be thinking, “Great, but this doesn’t really have that much to do with apologetics.”

If we stay with race, maybe not, though in some contexts like the Nation of Islam it might matter, but what if we moved beyond race? What if we suggested that Jesus is not like our culture? Jesus is more like His culture than ours and perhaps our culture is in the wrong in some areas.

We have an idea of gentle Jesus meek and mild. With this, we often brush over that account of Jesus in the temple making a whip and throwing out the moneychangers. We have a Jesus who is more like Mr. Rogers and preaches kindness to anyone.

I have the same objection to this. Years ago I read Five Views on the Historical Jesus. I read Crossan talking about how Jesus saw John the Baptist get arrested and executed and toned His message down then. He chose to emphasize on goodness and brotherhood. Good message, but here was my problem with Crossan’s Jesus. He would never be crucified. He is not a threat to anyone.

The same with this gentle Jesus meek and mild. This Jesus is not a threat. No one would be rushing to shut Him down. Jesus got crucified because of what He said and did. You have to do or say something awfully drastic to be considered worthy of the cross by your enemies.

Jesus was someone the authorities in religion refused to ignore, and apparently they couldn’t. There was something about Him. His attitude had to be much more confrontational. Indeed, we see this in Matthew 24, which is another passage that many Christians seem to brush over.

Jesus also regularly used sarcasm. We don’t really like that. After all, how could Jesus really insult anyone, despite Him speaking negatively of His own disciples at times, using the term satan to refer to His main disciple. Jesus told it like it is many times.

Did Jesus practice love and kindness in the sense we understand them? Yes. He was that way towards those who were repentant. I would argue that Jesus was showing love towards the Pharisees He condemned, but it is a kind of tough love we don’t usually see as love today.

We have times in the Gospels where Jesus gets angry. This surprises us since surely the Son of God wouldn’t be angry. He was at times, and rightfully so. Some of us today have a problem with universally condemning hate. I don’t. There are some things you ought to hate. I hate sex trafficking. I hate child abuse. I hate rape. If I don’t hate these things, there’s something wrong with me.

A great danger with this is we have really domesticated Jesus. We have made Him into a tame lion that we can easily be with. He is now Buddy Jesus. Jesus is a friend? Okay. Don’t treat Him just like any other friend though. He’s radically different.

So maybe we should all step back. What is Jesus really like? What am I bringing into my culture and assuming is like Jesus? What are some things about my culture I have thought normative everywhere, but maybe aren’t? (Individualism anyone?)

If we think about Jesus and are not challenged and not shocked and not scandalized at times, perhaps we are not really thinking about Jesus. We are just thinking about an ideal of how we think Jesus should be. His race is interesting, but what He did and who He was even more so.

Try to think about Him today. I know I need to more as well.

In Christ,
Nick Peters