I recently read the book Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time by Marcus J. Borg. I was very interested to discover in it his own version of personal faith, but even more interested in the organization of the book and how it might work to organize my thoughts as I prepared to lead a camp of seasoned Christians. Borg himself was challenged by someone who said, “Talk to us about Jesus, and make it personal” (p. 3). So my first step was to think about my own journey with Jesus through the images I have carried at different times.
1) How We Imagine Jesus
Here is a short version of my own growth in the way I imagine Jesus.
As a very young child, I remember less about Jesus than about God, and I saw God as likely to abandon me if I messed up, which I surely did over and over daily. Then in grade school, the Christmas song “Jesus, our brother kind and good” came to live in my imagination. In a missionary boarding school for high school, I roomed with several Pentecostals, including a girl who cut her own body when she despaired. She challenged me to find where in the Bible it said that God loves her specifically. I told her the Bible says in many places that God loves us, and that she was included. At another time during my time with her, we were praying after lights out, and I saw myself as one of the crowd that crucified Jesus, and I knew that Jesus prayed for God to forgive that crowd who didn’t know what they were doing. So my “kind, good brother,” Jesus forgave me.
Slightly later in my adolescence, I expressed publicly my desire to love God completely and experienced more completely the extent of God’s love. So I came into young adulthood with a picture of Jesus as a brother, kind and good, with whom I shared a loving Father. This was confirmed by my study of the book of Hebrews, which identifies Jesus as our elder brother. The next really significant development was several decades later, when I read and reread the book of Mark 3 times, start to finish. The Jesus I saw there was good, to be sure, and kind, to be sure, but also expressed anger, spoke his mind, and had determination and a sense of calling that made him so much more rounded as a person, and so much more compelling and attractive. I thought, if I’d known him when he was historically here, I’d have followed him. Reading The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard also added to my imagined picture of Jesus. Willard said that Jesus is smart and capable. And then I added to that picture the warrior on the white horse of Revelation who defeats evil and the evil one and invite us to an eternal wedding supper surrounded by trees that bring healing to all the nations.
So when I imagine Jesus now, I see a sturdy, strong, opinionated, smart, wise, available, communicative, loving, tender, forgiving winner who is the older brother I always wanted and who is the exact image of the Father we both share.
You might like to take some time now to note down the important steps in how your inwardly held picture of Jesus developed. If you feel comfortable doing so, share it with someone.