Sunday, September 13, 2015

Four Different Portraits of Jesus

Rembrandt's Christ in a Storm
The Book of Isaiah speaks about a mysterious servant of God who, despite all kinds of physical and verbal abuse, perseveres in carrying out the mission God entrusted to him. The early Christian community saw in this "servant" Jesus, the suffering Messiah.

And in the Gospel according to Mark, Jesus asks: who do you say I am?  What does Jesus mean to me?  What do I mean to Jesus?

The Gospel writers give us four different portraits or faces of Jesus because they wrote to four different audiences and emphasized four different ways in which to follow Jesus.

Jesus is a rabbi or teacher in Matthew; so too should we be teachers, especially by example, by the practice of virtue.

Jesus is a suffering Messiah in Mark; so too we may have to cope with illnesses or disabilities of one kind or another or make sacrifices.

Jesus is a healer or peacemaker in Luke; so should we be in our relationships.  To be a disciple, for Luke especially, is not only to be a hearer of God’s Word, but like Mary—the disciple par excellence—a doer of God’s Word.

Jesus is our friend in John;so too should we become a best friend of Jesus, especially in prayer.

What image inspires you to become the kind of person today that Jesus was in his day?  

The larger question may be: how did the early Christian community see Jesus?

They initially saw Jesus as the fulfillment of the hopes of ancient Israel.  But the more they reflected, the more they saw Jesus as the foundation of their hopes as well.   The Gospel according to John captures this magnificently: In the beginning was the Word and the Word, and so forth.

Yes, Jesus is the foundation as well as fulfillment of their hopes as well as our own.

Jesus experienced, as we sometimes do, fatigue, hunger, satisfaction, joy, friendship, disappointment and loneliness.

And he preached that the kingdom of God was breaking into our lives, proclaiming that good ultimately would triumph over evil; he possessed authority to forgive wrongdoings; he promised eternal life.  He was one with God; but he was crucified, died and then raised up from the dead; he is alive in our midst today.

Jesus taught that you and I can share in the kingdom of God by living out a life of discipleship with Jesus: by living prayerfully; by recognizing that our lives have an ultimate purpose; by seeing in Jesus—the Word made flesh—the face of God; by reaching out compassionately to the people who touch our lives every day; by experiencing the presence of the living Christ in the sacramental life of the community; and by being ready to let go of our earthly life, in the mystery of death, so that we can be one with God in glory forever.

And Jesus taught that God is our Father, a compassionate God, always near us at the start of each day to guide us on our pathway to our heavenly home, even if he seems far away.

Jesus challenges us to take up our daily crosses, and become the kind of person today that Jesus was in his day.  For the only Gospel some people may ever know is ourselves, how we live our everyday lives.

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