About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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What’s Your Mental Image Of Jesus?

One lady I know says that "her Jesus" wouldn’t overthrow tables of commerce as Jesus did in the temple. This tells me something about her mental image of who Jesus is, and it certainly isn’t Biblically accurate. Her Jesus is meek, mild and tolerates pretty well everything.

This leads me to wonder if we have an accurate mental image of who Jesus is, and where we derive our image from. This lady derived her thinking from her own imagination. My guess is that others find their mental image of Jesus from the gospel accounts; that’s Matthew, Mark Luke and John.

If our concept of Jesus only comes from the gospels, do we actually have an accurate Biblical mental image of Jesus? You’ve probably guessed my answer is "no".

We shouldn’t limit our understanding of who Jesus is based only on what we’ve seen in the gospels, because there’s more to be understood. What Jesus did and said while on earth as seen in the gospels was in direct relation to who He is and His ministry. His ministry dictated to a good degree the things He said and did. He was a loving and caring servant of God, ready to die for our salvation. Therefore He came to save the world, not condemn the world. (John3:16-17) Now that He has fulfilled His earthly ministry, do you think His present ministry might have some bearing on what He says and does as well, and if so, where do we learn about this?

I’m not suggesting that Jesus is schizophrenic, and that He is now different than who He once was. He hasn’t changed. I’m merely saying that for the most part the gospel accounts show us one side of who Jesus is while He was on earth. There’s another side to Jesus that we only see glimpses of in the gospels. We’ve got to look elsewhere to see this side of Jesus.

For example, the Book of Hebrews says that Jesus is our High Priest forever. Right now at this exact moment while you read this article, and throughout all eternity, Jesus is and will be our High Priest. Did you know that we’ll still need a High Priest in Heaven? As High Priest He’s constantly representing us before God, much like a lawyer would represent his client before a judge. Aren’t you glad that you have Jesus as your heavenly lawyer? You should be, because you certainly need Him as your lawyer, and so do I. (see Heb. 7:17, 25, 28)

The book of Revelation gives us a clear picture of who Jesus really is, especially in light of His present ministry, and eternal existence. To me, what we see of Jesus in Revelation is earth shattering, and probably demolishes many people’s flimsy mental images of the King we serve.

John described the physical representation of Jesus that he saw in Rev. 1:13 – 16. Jesus was dressed in a long robe and a golden sash around His chest. His head and hair were as white as snow. His eyes could pierce through anything because they were like a blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing from being in a furnace of fire. His voice was like Niagara Falls. (Niagara Falls is my personal interpretation) From His mouth protruded a sharp double-edged sword. Lastly, His face was like the brightness of the sun – very difficult to look at.

Without explaining this description of Jesus in detail, I think you’d agree that the Jesus pictured here does not look like the Jesus who walked the hills of Galilee. John saw an extremely powerful majestic Jesus, and could not stand in His presence. He "fell at Jesus’ feet as though he were dead". The very presence of Jesus knocked the wind out of John.

Now look at some of the things that Jesus actually said to the seven churches of Revelation, some of which may be quite astounding to those who have a meek and mild image of Jesus.

To the church at Ephesus Jesus said, "yet, I hold this against you…" Did you know that Jesus can hold something against us? How does that fit into your mental image? Jesus then says, "if you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand", meaning, remove "your church and its witness". (church equals lampstand Rev. 1:20) Would Jesus actually discard part of His church? (Rev. 2:4-6) It appears He would. I think we’ve got many examples of discarded churches today.

To the church at Pergamum Jesus said, (Rev. 2:16) "repent … otherwise I will soon come to you and fight against them with the sword of my mouth". "Them" refers to those in the church who hold to the teaching of Balaam. Here we see Jesus as one who fights against people in the church. I’ve heard of church people fighting each other, but Jesus fighting church people, that’s something else.

In Rev. 2:20 we see that Jesus has something against the church at Thyatira too. Jesus was very upset with this church because they "tolerated" (a very relevant word, don’t you think) a false prophetess who was leading some of His people astray. In verse 22 He says that He will cast her into a bed of suffering and kill her children. What? Did Jesus really say that?

Jesus told the church at Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-22) that He’d spit them out of His mouth because they were luke-warm. He’d rather have them cold instead of luke-warm. You’d think luke-warm would be better than cold, but not in Jesus’ eyes. Does your mental image of Jesus include spitting church people out of His mouth? I’ve seen a few paintings of Jesus, but I’ve never seen Him spitting in any of them.

I don’t want to be unbalanced in my portrayal of Jesus by saying what I’ve said, yet I think we’ve been unbalanced in our portrayal of who Jesus really is. I say what I say only to bring some balance back into the picture. If our mental image of Jesus doesn’t include what we see in Revelation, then our mental image of the One we serve is not correct.

Jesus is not always meek, mild, and quiet spoken. He is the King and the final authority over all there is, both material and spiritual. At times He will show His displeasure, and will if necessary bring severe judgment, even to His own people.

In order to not leave you in too much fear, you can turn to Rev 5: 5-6 and see another portrayal of Jesus. John was prompted to turn around and see "the Lion of the tribe of Judah", the only one powerful enough to open the seven seals. Being fearful of seeing this Lion, John probably nervously turned around to see the Lion. To his amazement he saw "the Lamb of God". God’s Lion in this case was a Lamb. How grateful and relieved John must have felt. Jesus is both Lion and Lamb. He’s not just a lamb, and He’s not just a lion. He’s both.

I’m not exactly sure how I will feel when I meet Jesus face to face on that "great and terrible day" as the King James Version describes that day, but I think I will shrink in fear and trembling and fall as dead as John did. Yet as Jesus touched John on the shoulder, He’ll touch me, and I will melt in the presence of His great love and compassion.



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