If you are one of us who still remembers what the real reason for the Christmas season is, you can’t help at this time of the year but to think about Jesus. When thinking, though, how in your mind’s eye do you picture Him?
The Christmas Jesus
Because the Christmas holiday is a celebration of the Savior’s birth, when picturing Jesus, one’s mind naturally depicts a baby. Popular nativity scenes portray Luke’s description of Jesus as a tiny babe swaddled in strips of cloth and lying in an animal trough. His parents, Mary and Joseph, gaze down adoringly. Shepherds and wise men gape in amazement from their perches along stone walls. The heavenly host flies above majestically singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
While the angels add a sense of the divine to the Nativity Story, and Hollywood has added the additional touch of a beam of Bethlehem starlight spotlighting the little family, for the most part the scene is rather pastoral — a peasant family sitting in the hay among animals in some sort of cave. It is meant to be a very humble scene.
The Easter Jesus
Because Christmastime happens to also be celebrated among cultural Christians and even non-Christians, the humble imagery of the baby Jesus remains in the mind’s eye. That is, until Easter. Then Jesus is portrayed altogether differently. Now He’s all grown up, fully bearded, but frail and emaciated. His lithe body suffers from beatings and is covered in lash marks. He is nailed naked to a tree where he limply hangs bleeding. And there Jesus remains on that cross in the mind’s eye, at least until Christmas returns and resets the mental image of Jesus back into a tiny baby again. And the circle continues.
The Popular Jesus
One of the most popular scenes from the movie Talladega Nights is when the lead character, race car driver Ricky Bobby (played by Will Ferrell), says grace with his family over a feast of fast food. He begins each praise and prayer request with “Dear Lord Baby Jesus” until his wife, Carley, impatiently interrupts with a, “Hey, you know, Sweetie, Jesus did grow up. You don’t always have to call him ‘baby.'” Incensed, Ricky responds with, “Well, I like the Christmas Jesus best and I’m saying grace. When you say grace you can say it to grownup Jesus, or teenage Jesus, or bearded Jesus, or whoever you want.” Even Ricky’s father-in-law, Chip, chimes in with, “He was a man! He had a beard!” From there, the conversation degenerates as each family member describes the “Jesus” they prefer: a ninja fighting off evil samurai, a guy sporting giant eagle’s wings, or a cool fellow singing lead vocals in a band, and so on.
Christians watching this movie tend to squirm dumbfounded over whether this scene borders on blasphemy or comedy, and yet one cannot help but come away with a profound revelation — most people have created their own personal “Jesus.”
People see Jesus in the only way they’ve ever encountered Him, and that’s often only during Christmas and Easter. And therefore, Jesus remains to most as either a helpless baby or a dying man.
The Prophetic Jesus
The beauty and majesty of God’s Prophetic Word introduces us to a third Jesus that few rarely if ever encounter because they never study Bible prophecy. In the prophecies concerning Jesus’ Second Coming, human frailty is stripped away revealing Christ’s true glory, a divinity that the Apostles could only glimpse at the Transfiguration. Christ’s true form stunned James and John into silence and Peter into babbling. The Apostles witnessed Jesus in His eternally glorified state.
With a self-introduction in Revelation 1:8 of, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End… the Almighty,” Jesus breaks out of the box of babyhood with His claim to agelessness and ultimate power. Revelation 1 continues to describe Jesus as, “One like the Son of Man,” so only resembling frail humanity in appearance. Clothed with a garment and girded with a golden band, His hair gleams bright white like wool and His eyes blaze like flames. Jesus’ feet glow like brass refined in a furnace and His voice thunders with the sound of many waters. Jesus’ holiness blinds like the sun in its strength. The Jesus the elderly Apostle John encountered caused him to fall at Jesus’ feet as a dead man!
Jump ahead to Revelation 19 and you’ll stand in awe of the description of Jesus as He triumphantly returns to earth as a warrior king dispensing righteousness as a judge waging war against Satan’s forces. Jesus bursts out of the heavens riding His white war charger as the armies of Heaven trail endlessly behind Him. Jesus’ eyes blaze like fire, atop His head sit many crowns, His robe is dipped in blood, and He strikes the enemy nations dead with the sword of the Word protruding out of His mouth. Emblazoned on Jesus’ thigh is the title: “King of kings and Lord of lords.”
Often it is more palatable to paint Jesus inside the box of one’s mind as a little baby or suffering servant, but are those the real Jesus? In part, yes, for they were as much a part of Jesus as our own baby, childhood, and teenage selves once were to us then, but are no longer.
Jesus eternal is the Jesus of Bible prophecy, so stand in awe of your Savior this Christmas season and all year long!