Who Is This Jesus?

That is the big question of Lent. The people scattered throughout the Passion story are asking it. Pilate asks it. The disciples ask it. And we might do well to ask it.

This artwork downtown asks it. Entitled “American Jesus” by Daniel Lopez (www.godffiti.com), it graces the Dream Center building on 2nd, just across the parking lot from Redemption Church. For me, it acknowledges the fact that Jesus, in a sense, has many faces. Jesus looks different for you than he does for me.

It also may say something about how “mixed up” the image of Jesus has become in modern society. In addition to all the good that is done in Jesus’ name, there is also much evil done under the guise of Christian intent. What does Jesus look like in a world such as this?

Some see an angry face with vengeance and retribution. Others see a welcoming face filled with compassion and mercy. In most cases, people see the face that we, the followers of Jesus, put on him.

If we, as we confess, are the hands and feet of Christ in the world, that is, the bodily manifestations of God’s intentions for inclusivity and unconditional love, then our neighbors are going to see the face of Jesus in our faces. As the love of God for all of creation is made clear by our words and actions, the face of Jesus becomes more clear for our neighbors.

As is true for so many things in our communal discourse these days, just asking this question could lead to argument and division. What we believe Jesus “looks like” often translates into our actions, our language, our support for policies public and private. Our perception of who Jesus is, that is, what Jesus “looks like” informs how we live out our faith as we walk with him.

It seems to me a “big picture” thing. And, as you can tell, this is a big picture. So big, in fact, that as you stand there in the parking lot (or sit there in your car on 2nd), all you see is a cacophony of cubed color. Is the artist suggesting that the face, the love, the family of Jesus includes all these colors? That could be one perception. Perhaps it represents what Jesus himself sees as he looks out across the world…people of every tribe and race for whom he came to show God’s undying love. Maybe it’s suggesting that no matter how we argue about who matters, Jesus is present for everyone, anyone, all the time.

Perception. Indulge me in an experiment, would you? Bring up the picture again. Whatever screen you are viewing this on, set it down (prop it up), and start backing away from it. Do you see it? Or is it just me? I first noticed it when I saved the picture to my desktop and then saw the thumbnail image there. It seems to me (I perceive) that a clear picture of Jesus’ face appears from a distance. I can’t imagine where you’d have to be in real space to make a building size version appear but on my little screen, I’m certain I see it there. Did the artist plan it this way? Who knows. But for me, seeing that on my computer’s desktop was a moment of revelation. Even in our confusion over who Jesus is and how best to follow him, he is present. The underlying foundation of our hope for the world is clear when we step back far enough to see that we are all, every one of us, embraced by his love.