The Fake Jesus

By: Jim O'Brien 

Hi Friend,

Growing up in a typical Protestant church, my early perception of Jesus was formed by the pictures surrounding the worship area. I don’t know exactly when it was that I looked at the picture behind the preacher on Sunday morning and said to myself "That picture is a fake!" but I do remember saying it in Sunday School class. It didn’t earn any gold stars.

Maybe it was after reading Paul’s statement that "nature itself teaches you that long hair on a man is a disgrace" (1 Corinthians 11:14 GNB). I couldn’t envision the Apostle Paul saying that Jesus had long hair.

Nor was he handsome. Isaiah’s description of the Messiah says, "there was nothing attractive about him, nothing that would draw us to him" (Isaiah 53:2 GNB).

It could have been when I first realized that any man who had grown up working in construction during the 1st Century A.D. would be a brawny guy. The picture just didn’t look very tough.

The picture on the wall did not look like the Christ who will return to the earth leading an army to make war against the most powerful weapons known to man. John writes, "And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns." The guy in the picture behind the pulpit had weak eyes—nothing resembling fire.

"And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses…And out of his mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS" (Revelation 19:11-16).

The picture did not look like the Lion of Judah or give any resemblance to the Jesus who single handedly threw moneychangers out of the temple. (Matthew 21:12) How many moneychangers were there? The Bible doesn’t say. But it was a large area so one could reasonably expect it to be several, maybe a score or more. No wimpy man could physically throw out that many men and turn over their means of doing business. This was my kind of guy!

The Bible describes a Jesus who painted a verbal picture of carnality and said, "For after all these things do the Gentiles seek" (Matthew 6:32 KJV). Jesus was too confident to be confined by politically correct speech. As in the time when he called the political and religious leaders of his day a bunch of snakes, the children of snakes, and asked how they could escape hell" (Matthew 23:33). That’s the kind of statement that makes the heart of an Irishman beat strong.

It’s also the kind of statement that makes me think something has been lost from mainstream Christianity.

When the wife of famed golfer Tiger Woods divorced him after his highly publicized infidelity, a news analyst asked, "If Tiger could make an emotional recovery from the sins of the past?" Brit Hume replied:

"The extent to which he can recover, it seems to me, depends on his faith. He is said to be a Buddhist. I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. So, my message to Tiger would be, ‘Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.’"

The reaction to Hume’s statement was predictable. A writer for the Washington Post demanded that Hume apologize because he had offended about half a billion Buddhists. Funny, there are over two billion Christians on the earth, of which multiple thousands are being persecuted, some martyred almost daily around the world by Buddhists, Hindi’s and Muslims. The American press seems strangely unconcerned about the offense caused to Christians.

Maybe the reason is that mainstream Christians resemble more the picture on the wall at the front of church than they do the man who stood alone against a mob intent on stoning a woman taken in adultery.

The major reason people are fleeing mainstream Christian churches today is because they’ve presented a fake Jesus. Christianity needs an infusion of the real Jesus, not the picture at the front of church.

Until next time,

Jim O’Brien

January 20, 2023

Pastor, Church of God Cincinnati

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