Understanding Jesus - the extraordinary
No man’s words have been translated so frequently, distributed so
widely and quoted so generally as the words of Jesus. Yet, on one
occasion only, so far as we are told, did He write - and then it was
with His finger on the ground. We do not have any idea what that writing
was. Fearlessly, He entrusted the entire fabric of His teaching to the
memory of those who listened to Him.
No portrait of Jesus was painted during his lifetime. No sculptor
moulded His face or figure. Among the countless thousands of likenesses
that form what has become a continuous tradition, there is only one that
is even attributed to an eye witness. It was the slight sketch by St
Peter, and it is preserved by the Cathedral in Rome that bears his name.
The story is that the Apostle was asked what Jesus was like. On a piece
of cloth he traced an outline.
The depiction of Jesus in art took several centuries to reach a
conventional standardised form for his physical appearance, which has
subsequently remained largely stable since that time. Most images of
Jesus have in common a number of traits which are now almost universally
associated with Jesus, although variants are seen.
The Christmas story gives a biblical account of the events
surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ
The conventional image of a fully bearded Jesus with long hair did
not become established until the 6th century in Eastern Christianity,
and much later in the West. Earlier images were much more varied. Images
of Jesus tend to show ethnic characteristics similar to those of the
culture in which the image has been created.
Beliefs that certain images are historically authentic, or have
acquired an authoritative status from Church tradition, remain powerful
among some of the faithful, in Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, and Roman
It is thus remarkable that the successive generalities should have
developed a kind of artistic orthodoxy, according to which the face of
Jesus of Jesus is today beyond all other faces the most intimately known
to the human eye.
There have been many who asked if Jesus was always sad in His
demeanour. The answer is that nowhere in the records is it stated or
even implied that He laughed or smiled. From first to the last He was a
“man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”
Jesus’ sorrow was not owing to his own sin, but to the sins of
others. Paul calls followers to put sin out of their lives: “Let no
corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for
building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who
Yet there is no evidence that His sense of responsibility restrained
the happiness of those around Him. At a marriage, it was He who turned
the water into wine. At a funeral, it was He who turned the sorrow into
joy. And children gathered around Him.
The recorded life of Jesus is, admittedly, the profoundest of all
mysteries. But it is evident that whatever He said, whatever He did,
embodied certain ideas, and that those ideas have worked through society
since His day. Great changes have resulted and further changes are to be
First is Christ’s emphasis on the infinite value, here and hereafter,
of the individual. He did not say that all men are created equal. But he
said that, by birth, all are divine.
The constructive genius of St Paul seized on this affirmation, and
elaborated it into the citizenship that transcends all frontiers,
announcing that, in Christ, there is nether Jew or Greek, Barbarian,
Scythian, that all are entitled to the respect of brother to brother in
the royal family of human race.
After such a “Declaration of Rights”, the Christen world could never
be the same. Slowly a society which had been based on oppression and
slavery, has become a society based, in the main on citizenship.
Law of the Gospel
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives examples of how His Law, the
Law of the Gospel, fulfils the commandments of the Old Law. One example
that Jesus gives is the fifth commandment: You shall not kill. Jesus
adds to this the proscription of anger, hatred, and vengeance.
And then He goes even further, asking His disciples to turn the other
cheek and to love their enemies. Jesus is calling us on a moral and
spiritual journey towards holiness, the perfection of love.
Another example Jesus gives is the sixth commandment: You shall not
commit adultery. Jesus calls us to more, to the virtue of chastity: “But
I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already
committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Jesus applied His Magna Carta to women. The Gospel of Luke provides
the answers to these questions. Twenty-four times in Luke, Jesus either
met a woman, talked about a woman, or mentioned a woman in a parable.
All of these 24 times are instructive and positive. The words accepting,
sensitive, and affirming sum up what Luke and the example of Jesus
Christ teach us about Jesus and women.
Jesus expressed his great love for all living beings in many
It was Jesus who set the child in the midst. His familiar New
Testament picture of Jesus taking a child in his arms and receiving him
with love portrays an attitude of care and concern for children found
nowhere else in the ancient world. Children, along with women, old men,
and slave, were viewed as physically weak burdens on society who had
little value to the wider life of the community.
In Greece and Rome, it was an accepted practice to abandon unwanted
children along the roadsides to die.
Jesus, however, seemed to always find time for youngsters; he told
his disciples that unless they became like little children they would
not enter heaven. He warned his followers not to despise children or to
cause them to stumble. Children were valuable and were to be treated
with love and care.
It was Jesus who declared war on disease of body and mind. Whatever
the different view one may take of his “miracles,’ they convinced
mankind that it was worthwhile to touch the deadly contagion and apply
treatment, It was the unique achievement of Jesus that He discerned the
innermost secret of life itself - the secret of love. Not love as a mere
emotion, but love as a strict emotion: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as
thyself. Unless we live in others, so He taught, we do not live our
lives at all.
Today, mankind is still staggered by this omnipotent paradox and
rebel against it. But we are learning by hard and painful experience
that there is no way of living unless we live for others.
It is the rule of the family. It must become the rule of the society
and of all nations.