|Vol. 16 No. 2 February 2014||
Have you ever seen a picture of Jesus? Some people have a framed picture that is supposed to be of Him. Many of these depict Jesus as pale-skinned and frail-looking, neither of which would be accurate. We have no Bible record of specifically how He looked, except that physically “he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:3).
However, it is as if God commissioned four portraits to be painted of His Son. The artist was the Holy Spirit, and words paint the picture. The first four books of the New Testament each give a picture of the life of Jesus.
Matthew wrote initially to a Jewish readership. His picture paints Jesus as King. In Chapter 2, the earthly king Herod felt threatened by the birth of this King, and he ordered the infant males in Bethlehem to be slaughtered. In Chapter 13, a series of parables tell about Jesus’ kingdom. In Chapter 16, we learn that the terms “church” and “kingdom” are used interchangeably (vv.18-19). Chapter 21 tells of the King Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on the back of a lowly beast of burden. In Chapter 27, we see Him humiliated and mockingly called “King of the Jews!” (v. 29).
Mark’s portrait was intended to impress upon Romans that Jesus was a Servant. His followers had questions about greatness (9:33-35), so He emphasized servitude. This portrait shows Jesus serving others. “For the Son of man also came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (10:45).
Luke skillfully depicts Jesus as a Man of compassion, which the Greeks appreciated. On one occasion, Jesus had been invited into the home of a Pharisee. A sinful woman came before Jesus and wet His feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. The host was incensed and wished for the woman to be expelled, yet the Savoir showed compassion (7:36-50). “For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost” (19:10).
John’s portrayal appeals to a general audience. This portrait radiantly displays Jesus as God (1:1-3). Before Abraham even came into existence, Jesus existed (8:58). If Jesus had had a beginning, the sentence would have read: “Before Abraham came into existence, I came into existence.” It does not so read. Jesus had no beginning. Thomas rightly exclaimed about the risen Jesus: “My Lord and my God” (20:28)!
Whenever we read the Gospel records, we see the true portrait of Jesus. Manmade pictures of Jesus cannot portray accurately Jesus Christ.
David A. Sargent
Following the July 1-3, 1863 Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War, a section of the battlefield was designated as a cemetery for the soldiers slain in the battle. A ceremony was planned for November 19, 1863 for the “Consecration of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg.” Edward Everett was selected to give the chief oration. President Abraham Lincoln was invited to formally dedicate the site. The organizational committee expressed to President Lincoln: “It is the desire that, after the Oration, you, as Chief Executive of the nation, formally set apart these grounds to their sacred use by a few appropriate remarks.”
These “few appropriate remarks” – the Gettysburg Address – that Lincoln would share on that historic occasion have come to be regarded as one of the greatest speeches in American history. In just over two minutes, Lincoln “examined the founding principles of the United States in the context of the Civil War, and he memorialized the sacrifices of those who gave their lives at Gettysburg and extolled virtues for the listeners (and the nation) to ensure the survival of America’s representative democracy (Wikipedia).
Although the President was asked to dedicate the ground for the cemetery, he concluded his address with a challenge to the living:
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
There is an even greater cause for which Jesus Christ, God’s Son, was willing to give “the last full measure of devotion.” The “cause” was the plan of God for the salvation of man that would be accomplished through the death (and resurrection!) of His Son as payment for the sins of mankind.
Man’s greatest problem has always been sin! Sin leads to eternal destruction (see Matthew 7:13-14). Yet, God loves us so much that He gave His Son to die on the cross that we might be redeemed (Ephesians 1:7). Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). Jesus expressed “the last full measure of devotion” to His heavenly Father and to accomplishing His Father’s will by giving His life for us.
In order to accept the Father’s offer of salvation and life, one must place his faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31) confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10) and be baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:26-27).
Then (adapting Lincoln’s words to reflect spiritual truths), out of gratitude for what Jesus has done for us, we should “take increased devotion to that cause for which [Jesus] gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that [Jesus] shall not have died in vain — that [all those who accept Christ’s offer], shall have a new birth of freedom” – freedom from the bondage of sin and death. “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). Won’t you accept His offer of freedom, salvation and life?