What’s your favorite picture of Jesus?
I tossed out that question at the Shepherd’s House—a faith based recovery ministry in Bend, Oregon. We were beginning a study of the Gospel of Luke and on our journey we would discover pictures of Jesus from so many different perspectives or poses.
Several men responded to my question. Soon it was obvious that one of their favorite pictures was Jesus blessing little children. I suspect that life experiences had influenced their impression of Jesus. Perhaps the lack of a father’s nurturing love motivated them, or were they grieving a broken relationship with their own sons and daughters as a result of their addictions? Whenever I try to imagine Jesus blessing the children I see the expression of delight on their parents’ faces as Jesus tenderly stroked their child’s face.
Other favorite pictures that the men shared that morning at the Shepherds House included Jesus restoring sight to a blind person. The more adventuresome men liked Jesus walking on water one stormy night.
In chapter five of my book, God in His Own Image: loving God for who he is… not who we want Him to be, I shared about a familiar picture of Jesus as the good shepherd holding a lamb in his arms. If time machines really did exist, and I could be zoomed back two millennia, (with my smart phone in my pocket) I would want pictures of Jesus touching the leper and washing the feet of his disciples in the Upper Room. Perhaps I would take a picture of Jesus sitting in Peter’s boat while holding the multitudes on the shores of Galilee spellbound by his words. How about a picture of Jesus conversing with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well with his disciples looking on with displeasure? That would make a picture!
Although less pleasant, I would also want a picture of Jesus of Jesus praying in the garden moments before Judas’ kiss of betrayal. I would like to capture a picture of Jesus standing before Pilate asking, “What is truth?”
I would also want a picture of Jesus hanging on the cross. (I admit that I close my eyes and turn away whenever I see Jesus being scourged in the movie, The Passion of the Christ.) But, I would like a realistic picture of that horrible scene on Calvary just before the sun was eclipsed.
On our recent flight back to Portland from Florida the lyrics of the song “Hallelujah, What a Savior” reverberated in my mind. With my Covid19 face mask hiding my mouth I quietly sang the lyrics of the song to myself. (I was also singing to Jesus.)
The first four stanzas of the song picture Jesus as the Man of Sorrows, describing the abuse and his excruciating death. Each stanza describing his death concludes with the refrain, “Hallelujah, what a savior!” Singing “hallelujah” in response to someone’s death seems out of place until I am reminded that he, though innocent, was condemned to die in my place. That he sealed my pardon with his blood. His last words, “It is finished,” guaranteed full atonement for my sin and guilt. I have been forgiven. Because Jesus was condemned—declared guilty—for my sin, I will never face condemnation. I can sing hallelujah to that!
The hymn concludes: “When he comes, our glorious King, all His ransomed home to bring, then a new this song we’ll sing: Hallelujah, what a Savior!”
Anticipating Jesus’ return is something to shout about, isn’t it? I, the guilty sinner, have been ransomed—bought with his blood—and adopted into God’s family.
Like the composer, Philip Bliss, every miracle Jesus performed, every sermon he preached, every spellbinding story he told, and every wound he suffered impels me to sing, “Hallelujah, What a Savior!”
Sadly, not every person identifies with these positive images of Jesus. If you have followed the Front Porch Swing, you may remember this very agitated response to one of my recent blogs:”I wonder if the author of this piece pretends a tortured Jew who controls this planet with god magic.”
Such a skeptical response can only come from someone who has never met Jesus—never read the gospel of Luke—preferring to deny the savior rather than to admit their own sin.
Regretfully, some have never heard about Jesus or had opportunity to read the gospels. Never held a Bible in their hands. Tragic as that is, the fault too often lies at the threshold of churches where evangelism is the forgotten mission.
As our world unravels around us, let us open the Jesus’ album and give people a glimpse of Jesus.
One thing is certain: there has never been another life that has impacted the world as dramatically as this one solitary life.
Over the next few weeks I want to share pictures from Luke’s Jesus’ album. My prayer is that my heart, and yours, will once again burn with passionate love for Jesus. May the refrain, “Hallelujah! What a savior!” reverberate in our hearts once again as it did when we first met him and fell in love with him.
(If you have not read the book, God in His Own Image, I encourage you to check it out. You can find it in both hard copy and audio book version.)