I spent some quality time with my buddy Photoshop a few weeks ago, and this is what came out. It’s a title graphic for the series we recently started on Sunday mornings at the Front Porch called (as you can see) “Rav Yeshua: The Genuine Jesus.”
I struggled with the choice of image to represent the Son of God, not finding much in the way of a young Jewish rabbi that would actually fit the mood of the piece. The photo I eventually used was of a friend of mine named Kenny Kalinowski, an up-and-coming actor and film-maker who lives here in Springfield. I had to add the yarmulke, of course, and I seriously thought about adding some Hassidic curls, but decided against it. What gave me the most trouble, though, was the color of his skin.
I made several attempts to darken his face a few shades, and make him look swarthier and more Semitic. But the results only looked like a week at the beach. Finally I called it good and decided he looked enough like our traditional image of Jesus to be recognizable as such, but also different enough to challenge our perceptions.
Because I really am convinced that our visual image of Jesus is a factor in our understanding of him. This series is called “The Genuine Jesus” for a reason… I have a passion to figure out, as a congregation, who he really, actually is, and to dig deep into everything that makes him God, and made him human.
The reason this is so necessary is all the misconceptions that have been thrown at us throughout the centuries. Why was Jesus depicted by the European masters as European? Why was he depicted by the hippies as a hippie? Why is he depicted by American religious conservatives as a red-blooded patriot? Because we love to imagine Jesus as one of us. After all, we’re taught that he left the throne of heaven for that reason. So why shouldn’t he sign my petition, join my cause, or fight in my army?
So the danger becomes apparent of creating Jesus in our own likeness. We Americans need to be aware that he did not have blond hair and blue eyes like the Sunday School felt boards led us to believe.
Except… he did. And he does.
Jesus has blond hair and blue eyes. He also has brown hair and green eyes. He is both short and tall, thin and heavy, Semitic, Arabic, Latino, Balkan, Polynesian, Inuit and Welsh. Maybe there’s a reason why we have no way of knowing his physical appearance from his days on earth. And this is where the Rav Yeshua series takes a decidedly different turn than I’d expected when I began it.
Jesus has blue eyes because I have blue eyes. What do we think he meant when he called us… you and me… to be the Body of Christ? It wasn’t any kind of concession, you can be certain. He wasn’t tired of being a human… tired of the itching and pooping and bathing and foot blisters and headaches. He wasn’t bailing out and grabbing the first people he could find to keep an eye on things for him. Quite the contrary, he was giving his body an upgrade… a promotion. He told them they might be amazed by his accomplishments, but they had no idea what the Body of Christ was yet capable of.
We are a nation of priests. Peter told us so. You are not meant to be a cog in the machine, or a laborer on a chain-gang. You are a minister of the gospel, certified, and ordained by the blood of Jesus to work miracles on his behalf. No concessions here, just an eternal calling that starts now.
I thought Rav Yeshua was going to be a showcase for my studies about Jesus as a Jewish Rabbi. Instead, what it’s become is a gallery of our own stories, and a workshop of experiences to show the Front Porch family how to collaborate in our priestliness, and drive home the fact that we are all pastors, we are all evangelists, and we are all called to exhibit the truest nature of the Son of God.
That is the Genuine Jesus.