Summary: Think about how we would describe Jesus, based on what we know. All we have are snapshots of His life, not a full biography. Who is Jesus Christ?
One day a little girl was drawing a picture, and even skipped recess because she was so focused upon it. Her teacher asked what she was doing and she said she was drawing a picture of God. “Oh honey, you can’t do that...no one knows what God looks like.” She held up the picture and said, “They do now!”
Does an image of Jesus Christ exist? If so, where is it and how did it come about. Do we know how tall Jesus was, the color of His skin, or the color of His eyes? Do we know about His physical attributes? Was He weather beaten from being in the sunshine day after day after day? The climate in and around the Sea of Galilee and the city of Jerusalem is much like San Diego when it’s mild. In the summertime, the temperature can climb much higher.
Was Jesus muscular, slight, thin, heavy? Did He have a beard and mustache? How did the painted images of Jesus Christ come about?
Throughout scripture, nowhere are we given a physical description of Jesus. Historical accounts never once mention how He appeared, just that He did, in a powerful way.
Do we need to know what someone looks like to know who they are? Human nature thinks so. When we are asked to describe someone, the first description will be physical. If we are asked to describe anything, our first description is physical. But the physical is secondary. How would someone describe you? I would hope people would say that I was compassionate, loving – unconditionally, kind, respectful, Christ-like, patient, forgiving, a good listener, a good heart. I really don’t care about what my physical description would be.
It’s not what you know, it’s Who you know.
The text this morning is a simple one, from the Gospel of Matthew, early on in Jesus’ ministry on earth. Matthew writes in chapter 4, verses 23-25: “Jesus was going throughout all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. The news about Him spread throughout all Syria (to the north) and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases, and pains, those possessed by demons, epileptics, paralytics and He healed them. Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis (10 Hellenized Greek cities south of Galilee) and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan River.” These 2 verses sum up the main aspects of Christ’s public ministry. Teaching, proclaiming the Gospel and healing.”
Think about how we would describe Jesus, based on what we know? We discussed last week that Jesus could have easily blended in a crowd, or He could have stood out from all men during His time. Remember, when Jesus was betrayed and sold for thirty pieces of silver, Jesus had to be identified first. Matthew gives us the account. “That last night, while Jesus was speaking to His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas came up accompanied by a large crowd with swords and clubs saying, Whomever I kiss, He is the one, seize Him.”
How often had these soldiers seen Him before, but they still needed to make sure they were arresting the right person.
So who was this Jesus?
He was an immensely popular teacher despite His unassuming nature and ordinary looks. The places He taught could scarcely hold the tightly packed multitudes that mobbed Him everywhere He went. The Gospel writer Luke records our first encounter with Jesus as a young man. At thirteen, a Jewish boy was called a bar mitzvah, a “son of the commandment.” In preparation for His thirteenth Birthday, Jesus might have undergone a rigorous program of instruction and preparation for this passage into manhood. But the modern bar mitzvah ceremony and celebration evolved from Jewish customs in the Middle Ages, so we can only speculate as to what first century Jews did. Regardless, one year prior to officially becoming a man, Jesus accompanied His family’s caravan to the Holy City of Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover feast and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. These back to back celebrations spanned eight days, a time taken together as the Passover.
After the celebration came to a close, Joseph and Mary began the seventy mile journey north to Galilee along with hundreds of other pilgrims, including dozens of friends and extended relatives. Perhaps thinking Jesus had joined His cousins farther back, the couple discovered only later that He was not in their number at all. Immediately, Joseph and Mary turned again for Jerusalem and retraced their steps. After three days of searching, they finally found Jesus in the Temple, surrounded by the nation’s foremost experts on Jewish law.
Luke writes, “Then, after three days they found Him in the Temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard were amazed at His understanding and His answers.”