By Tierce Green
How do you see Jesus? A compassionate Good Shepherd? A meek and mild, even cuddly, Lamb of God? A well-manicured Bridegroom in a black tie and tux? Have you ever imagined the Man yet God, sweating in the sun as he homelessly walked on earth speaking unfiltered truth and fiercely going toe-to-toe against the leaders of religious oppression? Perhaps a better question is this: How do you prefer your Jesus? Do you like your Lion of Judah with or without claws?
This is not a new conversation. Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957) was an English author, playwright, Christian apologist and friend of C.S. Lewis. She spoke out against diluted caricatures of Christianity, challenging us to recalibrate to the real unfiltered and unedited Jesus. Her perspective, from the early 20th Century, was that Christians had effectively declawed the Lion of Judah. Below is an excerpt from her essay, The Greatest Drama Ever Staged.
The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused Him of being a bore—on the contrary; they thought Him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround Him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified Him "meek and mild," and recommended Him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies. To those who knew Him, however, He in no way suggested a milk-and-water person; they objected to Him as a dangerous firebrand.
True, He was tender to the unfortunate, patient with honest inquirers and humble before Heaven; but ...
- He insulted respectable clergymen by calling them hypocrites
- He went to parties in disreputable company and was looked upon as a "gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners"
- He assaulted indignant tradesmen and threw them and their belongings out of the Temple
- He drove a coach-and-horses through a number of sacrosanct and hoary regulations
- He cured diseases by any means that came handy, with a shocking casualness in the matter of other people's pigs and property
- He showed no proper deference for wealth or social position
- When confronted with neat dialectical traps, He displayed a paradoxical humour that affronted serious-minded people, and He retorted by asking disagreeably searching questions that could not be answered by rule of thumb.
He was emphatically not a dull man in His human lifetime, and if He was God, there can be nothing dull about God either. But He had "a daily beauty in His life that made us ugly," and officialdom felt that the established order of things would be more secure without Him. So they did away with God in the name of peace and quietness.
(Excerpt from The Greatest Drama Ever Staged, by Dorothy L. Sayers, first published in May 1938.)
If it were possible to hop in a time machine and travel back to 1938, I think I would enjoy having a cigar with Dorothy (she loved to smoke cigars) and hearing more about the Jesus she knew. From my perspective, in the early 21st Century, I can see variations of what she saw then—a perfectly coiffed metrosexual Jesus. But I can also see a high-testosterone chest-beating Jesus presented by angst-filled preachers with a chip on their shoulder—sort of a let's-pick-a-fight Jesus. Either extreme is a caricature.
It will always be a challenge to read the Scriptures without a filter to discover and follow the unedited Jesus. We will naturally gravitate towards explanations and descriptions of his life and teachings that fit our personality or support our experiences. Even the Apostle Paul, with his wealth of experience and education, understood that he still had much to learn about the real Jesus ...
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death ... (Philippians 3:10)
Jesus is the Lamb of God AND the Lion of Judah. He is also the Prince of Peace who curiously said, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34) Jesus is the multi-dimensional I Am who cannot be completely captured in one convenient portrait. We have a lifetime to get to know him and an eternity to experience him in his fullness when we finally see him face to face.