The Real Jesus: Take Your Pick

The December National Geographic features an extended piece on Jesus, a mixture of fact and fancy. An opening foldout displays 61 portraits of Jesus painted from ancient times to the present, each different from the others.

No one knows what Jesus looked like. He was a middle-east Jew—died at 33. Sallman’s familiar painting is way off—soft flowing brown hair, neatly trimmed beard, North European facial features. Artists, like theologians, lean on personal perception.

Luther,  ZwingliCalvin, Arminius and other reformers took issue with Rome’s well defined teachings, but their ideas on what the Bible taught varied. Theologians have produced multiplied hundreds of variations since.  Who determines who is right?

I happily discuss theology, but I quit debating. We are all products of teachers, notably childhood teachers. We didn’t shape our beliefs out of thin air. We don’t even agree on the nature of the Bible, a collection of ancient writings. Check out the bare-knuckle fights over which writings belonged in the cannon in Adam Nicholson’s God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible.

I like my three-point creed: Mystery—metaphysical stuff my mind can’t wrap around; Sovereign Grace—everything we gain from God is an undeserved gift; Incarnation—Jesus, one with the Father and Holy Spirit (Mystery), creator and sustainer of the Universe.

Don’t hassle me with doctrinal particulars. I’m a simple Jesus follower. I don’t know the what, how, or when of Jesus’ present work. To me, following Jesus means meeting everyday needs of others around me as best I can.

I’m fully content to be a tiny tile in the grand mosaic of providence. Come walk with me.

Old Grandpa Lloyd