We Are Made In Whose Image?
By Rabbi Bruce Booker
Many years ago when I was in the Marine Corps, stationed in Japan, I visited a church. There, on the wall, hung a picture of Jesus. However, it was not the picture of Jesus that I had come to familiarity with in the States, which was an image of a white, Anglo-Saxon Jesus.
You see, the Jesus portrayed there on that church wall had a face that looked Japanese.
Years later, I noted in a national magazine article a picture of Jesus on a church wall in Africa. There, He was portrayed with the characteristics of an African.
And so it is, I am sure, with the Jesus’ of all the nations. In whatever nation, race, and culture He is portrayed in, He looks like them.
But that is not the extent of the similarities. It is not simply in appearance that the Jesus in our culture holds similarity. Our Jesus often acts like us, eats like us, talks like us and does what we do- in short, our Jesus IS us – however Capitalized.
Sometimes, there is a concern expressed by Christians that we in the Messianic Movement are going overboard when we address Him by His real name: “Yeshua” instead of Jesus. Or when we cite the Torah as His standard of living a holy life – which is what it was – as opposed to our own lack of observance to Torah in Christendom (“we are not under Law…”). Or when we observe the Moedim (Appointed Times – Leviticus 23) instead of Christmas, or Easter, or other pagan-originated observances now extent in Christian life. That is what He would have done.
Yet, because our walk and talk is SO different than what most Christians are used to, there is a fear verbalized by some believers that we are walking away from the “true faith” in Him; that we are moving into legalism when we begin to walk out Torah in our own lives (as He did).
Now, I am not opposed to their concern. On the contrary, it is good that believers sincerely question and seek out the truth. But, it is also important to remember that as we search for that truth that we begin to challenge our own traditions when it comes to their compatibility with Biblical practice. And when we begin to do this, we must be careful not to toss out the truth, especially when it conflicts with our own traditional practice.
For so long in Christianity we have come to accept a practice in our faith in Yeshua the Messiah that was not His. We have accepted as norm a practice that actually conflicts with and opposes the Biblical practice that He observed in His life. Then, when presented with a Jesus so “Jewish,” so different than our own Jesus, we recoil from the Jewish Jesus and return to the one we grew up with – the one that looked and acted like us.
The fact that Jesus is so universal, so accepted by people the world over, from so many cultures and races, speaks to His appeal to all of mankind. But the Jesus that is accepted by the nations is the Jesus that looks like the nations.
Yet when all is considered, would the world be so readily accepting of a Jesus that looked and acted so “Jewish?” One that wore tzit-zit on the corners of His garment, one that ate Biblical kosher, or one that observed the Torah in His life? Would they accept a Jesus that wore “payettes” on the corners of His beard – as do the Orthodox Jewish men?
But it is this “Jesus” that most accurately reflects the truth of who He really was and is – a Jew! If Jesus were presented to all men in that garb, in that frame-of-reference; would He be as readily accepted? Would He be as popular among all the nations as He is?
I wonder. I suspect that from the reactions of some Christians to those of us in the Messianic Movement who portray Him and seek to follow Him in that light, that He would be as much rejected in that role as we are. It is far more comfortable for most Christians to keep Him in the image that they currently have of Him – that of themselves.
The Jesus made in our own image does not challenge us to live as the real Jewish Yeshua did as a Torah observant Jew. Thus, we can accept Him as we see Him – as merely an extension of ourselves – a far more comfortable endeavor.
When in Bible college and studying the gods of the nations through history, I discovered that they had gods that were pretty much like them: they ate, they drank, and got drunk, they had sex, they played, they fought; and, overall, they were like the people they reigned over.
So, as I sit here musing over this in the light of the gods of the nations, I wonder this of our God and Jesus: “Is it that He made us in His image, or have we made Him into our own?”
Rabbi Bruce R. Booker
Beth Yeshua Messianic Congregation
Priest River, ID