If the popularity of superhero comic books, action movies, and comic conventions are any indication, our society is desperate for someone who will sweep in at just the right moment to save the day. Christians aren’t immune to this yearning either. A few years ago, I saw an advertisement for an action figure called Superhero Jesus. Superhero Jesus had strong muscles positioned for a fight. I originally laughed at the idea because most depictions of Jesus portray someone of rather average build with an otherwise forgettable frame. But the more I thought about it the more I realized that we all have the tendency to make Jesus in our own image at times—be it meek Jesus, superhero Jesus, or helpless baby Jesus. Like some of the religious leaders, we can find ourselves believing and insisting that what we think and feel must be exactly what Jesus thinks and feels.
For the religious leaders, Jesus is exactly who they didn’t want. They are expecting someone who will vanquish all their political enemies in battle, a first-century superhero. Instead, they get someone who came as a baby from the “wrong side of the tracks.” Jesus is prone to the same hunger, sleepless nights, and fears that we have. He does not use pithy one-liners to silence his foes. Nor does he seek revenge. He only seeks to make us one with himself and with God. Jesus does not wield a sword to shed the blood of others; rather, his hands, his feet, his side become instruments of love as his own blood is shed on the cross.
It’s more than anyone could have imagined. It’s all any one of us will ever need.
God, when I’m tempted to make Jesus in my own image, help me to see Jesus as he really is—meek, passionate, humble, committed, merciful, and more than enough. Amen.
For the second time this year, we read the story of the Israelites complaining in the desert about water, only to see God provide a miraculous spring. The psalmist reminds the people of the many powerful deeds performed by the Lord, including leading them through the sea out of Egypt and providing them water from the rock. Paul emphasizes to the Philippians the need for humility and unity. In quoting the earliest known Christian hymn, Paul encourages them with the example of Christ, who gives up all his rights for the sake of others. In back-to-back encounters with religious leaders, Jesus evades an attempt to trap him in his words and then teaches that true obedience is shown not by our speech but by our actions.
Read Exodus 17:1-7. When have you tried to “do it all”? How can admitting your limitations help you lead?
Read Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16. Recall times when you have known God’s presence. How might remembering and retelling these stories shape your faith?
Read Philippians 2:1-13. How does your life speak of God’s love for you and for all humanity?
Read Matthew 21:23-32. How have you created your idea of Jesus in your own image? What would change if you found your identity in Jesus rather than creating Jesus’ identity from your own?
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