What image of Jesus comes to mind when you think of him? For many Americans, it is this portrait by the artist Warner Sallman, painted in 1940, with which we are most familiar, comfortable, used to imagining what Jesus looked like.
Sallman’s Jesus is peaceful, contemplative, focused and (literally) shining. In contrast, the image of Jesus clearing the temple that John presents in his gospel could hardly be more different. “When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!'” John 2:13-16. Whip-armed Jesus is anything but calm! As Pastor Karen Witt shared in her sermon on March 8, this Jesus was confronting a religious system that substituted ritual for true devotion of God, had forgotten its reason for being and therefore was not open to the revelation from God that Jesus embodied. Jesus in the temple, Jesus with his disciples, Jesus on the hillside teaching, Jesus on the cross … all these portraits of him model for us, his followers, a Way focused not on religious practice, but on relationship with God, and love for our neighbor. Karen invited us to explore as many images of Jesus as possible … to overturn any fixed image we may have of him … so that we may know him and love him more and more. O, how we love Jesus, because he first loved us!