Sunday, May 24, 2015

so much for the halo

The Word for today:
Mark 14:27-52
And immediately, while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.
Now His betrayer had given them a signal, saying, "Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him and lead Him away safely." 
As soon as He had come, immediately he went up to Him and said to Him, "Rabbi, Rabbi!" and kissed Him.
Then they laid their hands on Him and took Him.
(Mark 14:43-46)
You will notice in the passage above that Judas had to pre-arrange a signal that would identify Jesus to a multitude who were sent to seize him. So much for the halo.
A sharp-eyed reader will note that Stand in the Rain rarely shows anything other than a stylized picture of Jesus—perhaps a line drawing, or an indistinct abstraction of his features.
We are not avoiding pictures of Jesus because we are super-duper saints who wish to remain doctrinally pristine. No, the real reason we don’t use pictures of Jesus is because we rarely find any that we like.
Every Jesus picture I have ever seen bothers me in one way or another. Half of them make him out to look like my fairy godmother. Of the half remaining, half of those make him out to look like my hairy godfather.
Of the remaining quarter, half of those stick a halo on his head.
And the remaining one-eighth are just bad art.
We mis-characterize Jesus when we give him a halo or in some other way make our Redeemer look any different than we shmoes whom he redeemed. In fact, there are theological imperatives (kenosis, incarnation, vicarious substitutionary atonement, etc.) that leave us with just one true picture of Jesus. William Blake, the great Christian mystical poet, drew that picture with these modest and half-humorous words:
The vision of Christ that thou dost see
Is my vision’s greatest enemy.
Thine has a great hook nose like thine;
Mine has a snub nose like to mine… (1)
The closest you and I get to a scripturally-authorized picture of how Jesus might have looked is when we are brushing our teeth.
(1) from “The Everlasting Gospel,” circa 1818

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