So this week I have been sick. Maybe, overall, the sickest I have ever been. Ashley, my lovely wife, has essentially quarantined me. I’ll be lying in bed, alone, in my room, alone, and I’ll hear the spraying sound of Lysol…and the smell of it will seep through the bottom of my door…oh how I hate that smell.
Anyway, I have been on Facebook a ton because…other than sleeping, what else am I going to do when I am sick? All this week I have seen so many people post these Jesus memes or just random pictures of Jesus. They all show Jesus looking something like this:
Or even the Pretty boy “Hollywood” look:
For one, in almost every picture I see of Jesus, his hair is long and straight…as in looks like a professional used a straightener on it. The Bible offers no say as to if Jesus had long hair or not. However, Jews of the day traditionally didn’t have long hair. Plus, can anyone seriously imagine Jesus as a carpenter, having to constantly get his hair out of the way? I can’t. On the note of a carpenter, that probably meant Jesus was at least decently strong. He worked with wood and stones using his hands a lot, in what could be very physical and tedious work.
Here’s a quote from Matt Chandler on what Jesus looked like “Finding a white dude in Galilee in the first century would be like finding big foot riding a unicorn across a rainbow. There’s not going to be one there! It’s not going to happen! So we know that Jesus, is not a white guy. Not blonde, doesn’t have fair hair, that’s not who he is. He is distinctively Jewish, and what we do know from the Bible is that he’s not all that good to look at.”
How many pictures of Jesus do we see that have him Middle Eastern? It’s rare. He is always white. I often wonder why so many of us push this fake looking version of Jesus out there. Even the Jesus Film which is awesome in the fact that it gets millions of copies of dvds in other languages out there, misses what Jesus would look like. I find myself thinking, how confused will other cultures be watching all these white people roaming around in the Middle East?
As Chandler said, we know that Jesus wasn’t very good to look at.
He grew up before Him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground. He didn’t have an impressive form or majesty that we should look at Him, no appearance that we should desire Him.
In fact, if Jesus was really as Hollywood as people portray him, he never would have slipped away countless times as the Bible tells us he did. He would have stuck out to easily. He looked average and fit in easily with a crowd.
It must not be that important as to what exactly Jesus looked like. If it was the Bible would have given us a lot more information. So why did I write this blog about it? I wrote it because many people would be offended if they saw Jesus. To illustrate this point best, I would like to close was a passage from Vince Antonuncci. He is a Pastor currently in Las Vegas, Nevada. This passage, coming from a pastor, is very honest and impactful. I read it years ago and still remembered it while writing this. Take the five minutes to read it, it’s worth the time.
I’ll be honest. When I first came into Christianity, I couldn’t believe how self-consumed and comfort-obsessed Christians were. I wondered if we were reading the same Bible. Had they ignored the verses where Jesus said to carry a cross, to die to self, to choose death? Had they missed the story about washing feet?
But, over time, I have seen the same self-obsession and comfort-addition creep into my own life. Often I’m able to conveniently ignore noticing this, but every once in a while I get smacked in the face with it.
Like a few years ago my friend Mark and his family moved to Laos to do mission work there. And I thought, Could I do that? If I really believed God wanted me to up and move to Laos, would I do it? I thought, Of course I would, but I had my doubts. Then, before this family left, I told them I would come over to see them on a church mission trip. They laughed and said, “We’ll believe that when we see it!” And I realized, Wait a second, I’m wondering if I would move there, but apparently there is something about me that makes people question if I’d even be willing to go there for two weeks! What is that? Do they know about my King of Comfort crown? Have they seen this lazy boy sleeping in his easy chair?
Now that we had missionaries established in Laos, I started praying for Vietnam. We had committed to try and reach a people group that lived in several Asian countries. So I repeatedly prayed that God would give me some way into Communist-ruled Vietnam and at least get my foot in the door there. After praying that for a few years, I received an email one day. It was from a pastor I had met just once. He wrote, “ Hey Vince, I’m going to Vietnam to meet with government officials . They told me I could bring some pastors from other churches who might help their country and you came to mind. Want to go?”
My first thought was, No! As I mentioned earlier, the trip was fifteen days long. My family had a vacation planned for seven of those. I would miss my daughter’s first day of kindergarten.
Then I realized: God had just answered my prayers in nothing less than miraculous fashion. I had a once in a lifetime opportunity starting at me, and saying yes could potentially lead to years of being able to do ministry in a Communist country where Christianity is basically illegal- and I’m going to say no because it would interrupt my plans?
About a year ago I had another experience like this one. I was asked to help with a new church start in Cleveland. I was to be on the “Management Team” – giving advice and coaching to the guy starting the church. I agreed and then found out I’d have to fly to Cleveland for a day of meetings. This did not make the King of Comfort happy. Airplanes don’t have La-Z-Boy chairs. Cleveland is much colder than where I live. I’d have to be away from my family.
But I went.
After the meetings someone drove me to the airport in Cleveland to catch the return flight. I was early, so I sat down at my gate to read a book. I was in the middle of reading when the most unforgettable sensory experience of my life occurred. I was suddenly hit by a smell… I don’t have words to describe it.
None of those words do this smell justice. I’m serious.
I instantly starting gagging. I tried to figure out the source of the smell, but I couldn’t, and slowly it faded away. I went back to reading, but then the smell attacked me again. Holding my breath and trying not to retch, I looked and saw a woman who had just walked up. From her physical appearance and dress It was obvious she was from the Middle East. I gave her a quick once over and realized the problem. She was wearing sandals. She carried a thin plastic grocery bag that contained sneakers. Only sneakers. The smell was coming from her feet, or perhaps her sandals and sneakers. She had decided to stand right next to me, and I couldn’t hold my breath and longer.
In that moment I starting having this rapid fire inner dialogue…
This is the most sickening feeling of my life.
Vince, chill out. She’s a person, she is not her smell.
She may be a person, but she doesn’t smell like one.
Vince, she’s from the Middle East. They eat different foods from you. Those foods have certain smells. And she has been working all day. So her feet are sweaty it’s not a big deal.
Not a big deal? I am getting up and getting out of here!
Vince don’t you walk away from her!
She won’t know why I’m walking away from her. It won’t insult her.
No, Vince, don’t walk away from her, even if she doesn’t know, even if it doesn’t insult her. This isn’t about her, it’s about you.
Exactly, this is about me. That’s why I’m getting out of here.
Vince, maybe the most important thing isn’t for you to be comfortable. Maybe it’s for you to put another person first. Maybe the best thing would be for you to be uncomfortable.
That’s stupid. Sitting next to her isn’t putting her first anyway. It’s not like I’m going to start to talk to her or start a friendship with her. So it’s no big deal if I’m not around her. I’m leaving.
Vince, don’t leave. This is your chance to grasp death and experience real life.
No, I’m leaving. Talk about death- it’s going to kill me if I stay here one more second!
But Vince, what if not staying here kills your soul?
Whatever. I’m leaving.
And I did. I got up, very subtly, and I walked away. I walked as far as I could as fast as I could, and then started gulping for air like someone who had been held under water for three minutes. I found a place on the floor to sit down, and I went back to reading my book. Finally the announcement came that my flight was boarding, so I walked over to the line. Seconds later I was assaulted by the stench. I turned around and found that the woman, and her sandals and sneakers, were right behind me. I tried to fake a smile at her, turned back around, and thought, Yeah, that’s funny God. You have a great sense of humor.
As we waited to board, and then finally entered the plane, I tried to take as few breaths as possible, and only through my mouth. Then I realized: she might be sitting near me on the plane! I started frantically praying, God, I know this is wrong. I know. I know. I know. But please, please, please, don’t let her be sitting next to me.
She sat next to me.
I was on aisle, 19C. She was just across the aisle, 19D.
And then it hit me…
Jesus was from the Middle East.
Jesus ate whatever it is Middle Eastern people eat.
Jesus walked all day, every day.
Jesus wore sandals.
Jesus rarely would have soap touch his feet.
And I realized… I would be offended by Jesus.
Like most Christians, I like to imagine meeting Jesus, in the flesh, and I picture myself running up to him and hugging him. But what if I ran up…and gagged? What if the smell was… repulsive… disgusting… revolting… foul… nauseating? And why wouldn’t it be? Why would Jesus smell any better than this woman?
It was a slap in the face. I finally understood. I was so addicted to my own comfort, so unwilling to die, that not only was it keeping me from living the Jesus life; it kept me from Jesus.