He hangs two hundred feet in the air from a church tower in Sussex, England. But this Jesus statue is more Abercrombie and Fitch than first century Galilee (maybe he was inspired by the Kid Rock song, “Blue Jeans and a Rosary…”). This statue, affectionately called “Jesus in Jeans” by the locals, is a very telling portrait of the way Jesus is commonly portrayed in popular culture, and frankly isn’t that far from another statue I think we’re all familiar with:
“Buddy Christ,” from the irrevereant, yet surprisingly faith-affirming film Dogma has become an all too easy charicature of what we want our Jesus to be. The prayer scene in the Will Farrell film Talladega Nights is a perfect example. Each family member likes their own personalized Jesus, whether that’s Baby Jesus, Ninja Jesus or Tuxedo T-Shirt Jesus (“…cause it says, I wanna be formal, but I’m here to party”).
Steve Case, the author of the article “Jesus in Jeans,” says this regarding the cultural fascination with Jesus Christ:
“I’d like to have a cup of coffee with Jesus someday. Not the guy in the clean white robe who speaks in King James English and looks morosely at me while I sip my Venti iced coffee, but just a “guy.” A son of God who laughs, hangs out with the outcasts, breaks the rules that need breaking and calls the finger-pointers on the carpet.”
“If we can find a way for people to see and touch and hear and smell Jesus, it might make it a little easier when we ask them to have faith in a Jesus that is beyond our senses.”
“Yes, what Jesus did (or allowed to have done to him) was an act of immeasurable compassion and love. But isn’t it easier to hug someone whose arms aren’t nailed down?”
The cross is indeed foolishness to many in our world, to those who would prefer a sanitized version of the savior without the blood and without the cross. Someone personal. Intimate. On the one hand, I agree with Mr. Case: I too want a Jesus that’s bigger than the sterile Sunday School version. But Case also seems to be moving toward a view of Jesus as an ethical teacher, and the cross as an “act of compassion” rather than an “act of redemption.”
But sadly, Mr. Case, we can’t have it both ways.
We can’t have a Savior who enters into our world and our existence without rescuing us from ourselves. A Savior who sits down for coffee without seriously addressing our addictions, our failures and our doubts is not a Savior at all. What we desperately need is a Savior who not only acknowledges our burdens, but lifts them from our shoulders to His, which is precisely what the cross is all about.
Seattle Pastor Mark Driscoll said this in an article from Relevant Magazine:
“Some … [want] to recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in His hair, who drank decaf and made pithy Zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. In Revelation, Jesus is a prize fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up. I fear some are becoming more cultural than Christian, and without a big Jesus who has authority and hates sin as revealed in the Bible, we will have less and less Christians, and more and more confused, spiritually self-righteous blogger critics of Christianity.”
Our Savior is more than a “Buddy Christ.” The Greek scripture tells us that no one has seen God, but Christ revealed Him to the world through Himself (John 1:18). The Greek text uses the word “exegesato,” (where we nerdy types get the word “exegesis”) a word that referred to scholars scouring manuscripts and data, searching for clues of God’s great Truth. All this was contained in the person of Jesus, who vibrantly revealed God to the world, shining His light in the darkness.
Pastor James Stuart writes:
“He was the meekest and lowliest of all the sons of men. Yet he spoke of coming on the clouds of heaven with the glory of God. He was so austere that evil spirits and demons cried out in terror at his coming, yet he was so genial and winsome and approachable, that the children loved to play with him and the little ones nestled in his arms. His presence at the innocent gaiety of a village wedding, was like the presence of sunshine. No one was half so kind or compassionate to sinners, yet no one ever spoke such red-hot scorching words about sin. A bruised reed he would not break. His whole life was love. Yet on one occasion he demanded of the Pharisees, how they were expected to escape the damnation of hell. He was a dreamer of dreams and a seer of visions, yet for sheer stark realism, he has all of us self-styled realists soundly beaten. He was the servant of all, washing the disciples’ feet, yet masterfully he strode into the temple, and the hucksters and moneychangers fell over one another to get away in their mad rush from the fire they saw blazing in his eyes. He saved others, yet at the last, he himself did not save. There is nothing in history like the union of contrasts which confronts us in the gospels; the mystery of Jesus is the mystery of divine personality.”
Jesus once asked one of His disciples what people thought of Him. They rattled off the answers that were rattling around pop culture. But Jesus pointedly asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” In our present day, everyone from Kanye West to Marilyn Manson wants to talk of a “personal Jesus.” But what about you?
Who’s your Jesus?