In the last 2000 years, there have been many depictions of Jesus Christ. Each portrayal, whether in art or music or theater or film is filtered through the perception of the artist. The truth is, we don’t know what Jesus looked like, or who he really was through any of these mediums, and yet just like Medieval Europeans who relied on stained glass depictions of Jesus to form their image of him, we also allow these filtered and often contaminated modern-day visions to be our image of the Savior. The truth is that these interpretations say more about us, than they do about the son of God.
A beautiful, but perhaps not so familiar, Christmas song illustrates our perceptually biased connection to Jesus. “Some Children See Him*,” lily white, others bronzed and brown. Others see him almond eyed or dark as they, and yet all children see him with a heavenly grace and a light filled face, just like theirs. These many views of Jesus are all accurate in their “inaccuracy,” because the truest picture of Jesus is the one, we individually carry in our heart.
The image of Jesus that I carry reflects my own bias and therefore my needs. I see Jesus as the consummate man who strikes the perfect balance between all the traditional archetypal energies**. He loves deeply (Lover), stands strong and defends when appropriate (Warrior), knows the “science” of the human spirit, the earth and the heavens (Magician), and blesses always with wisdom and compassion (King). This balance is at the foundation of what we call Christ-like masculinity.
Today, I want to focus on three aspects of Christ-like masculinity. Jesus Christ was competent, authoritative and authentic. In my mind, all three of these character traits, the evidence of which are found in the scriptures, are either at the foundation or are a manifestation of Jesus’ confidence. A confidence which, though I believe it to be unshakable, was at the same time flexible and always growing.
Jesus was competent.
Without being cliché, he did his homework long before it was due. We know he studied. We know that he was prepared by man and angels for over thirty years before his calling came. Jesus didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to walk on water (Matt: 14:25-31) or turn water into wine (John 2:3-11). Among many of the competencies that Jesus acquired in mortality, he learned how to “manipulate” elements and reorganize them in a way that would create an outcome different from that which was expected, like giving sight to a blind man (Mark 8:22-25).
While we refer to these acts as miracles, that doesn’t mean they were magic. Jesus accomplished these things through faith, which is just as much a definable process as any scientific or technical process devised by man, whether we understand faith or not. So yes, Jesus was competent because he was prepared, and knew what to do and how to do it when his time came. He was able to heal the sick, cast out devils and command the elements to do his will, or more accurately, his Father’s will.
Jesus was authoritative.
Jesus’ mission did not grow out of his own ego’s need for recognition. Jesus did what he did because he was called and with that calling came authority. Authority cannot be claimed, it is bestowed by someone who possesses the authority to do so, in this case his Father and his Father’s designated messengers.
We know that Jesus was authoritative because of how he was perceived by others and by his own testimony. Those who heard Jesus speak were amazed that he spoke as one having authority (Mark 1:21-22) and by the way he frequently silenced his critics, or perhaps more accurately how they silenced themselves, unable to respond to his doctrine (Luke: 20:1-8). We also know that he had not only the faith, but the authority to heal and cast out unclean spirits; they had to obey him (Luke: 4:36).
Jesus testifies of his own authority when he declares that he is only doing that which his Father has commanded him to do. (John 6:37-40) This declaration does not exalt him, but rather factually and humbly states that he is doing the will of Him who sent him.
Jesus was authentic.
Jesus spoke the truth, in a truthful way, which means that he did not have to be loud, or showy, or pleading or aggressive. Jesus spoke truth and had faith that those who had ears would ear.
Sometimes speaking truth would look like his encounter with the woman at the well (John 4:16-18) or the woman brought before him, accused of adultery (John 8:2-11). Other times speaking truth looked like his meeting with Nicodemus (John 3:7-12), or the things he said to Simon, a Pharisee who had invited him to dinner (Luke 7:36-47). In all these examples Jesus was not “nice”, but he was truthful, which means he spoke bluntly and from a place of love. His goal was not to shame the hearer of his words nor to make them feel good about themselves. Rather, Jesus sought to teach them in ways that would leave an impression and motivate them to choose to return to their Heavenly Father.
I often wonder how Jesus’ candor would be received in religious communities today, where good manners are held in such high esteem. Jesus was not polite in the conventional sense, though I judge from what I’ve read that he was kind and respectful. He wanted those to whom he spoke to hear him, even at the risk of making them uncomfortable. In fact, discomfort was a necessary part of the life and gospel that Jesus was inviting them to live, leaving no time for “nice”; and it is still the case today.
This Child Sees Him As Confident
The competence which Jesus acquired and the authority which was bestowed upon him were at the foundation of his confidence in mortality. The blunt and compassionate authenticity that distinguished how he delivered his message was one of the signs of that confidence.
I aspire to Christ-like confidence because I judge it to be unshakable while at the same time completely flexible and adaptable to each situation and individual. Christ-like confidence is rooted in a knowledge begotten by the spirit, with a voice that is not loud, yet clearly heard, and pierces the hearer to their core. I have been so pierced and strive to impact others in a like manner, piercing their hearts and souls with love, that I too might be a Christ-like man. Will you consider joining me?
Some children see Him lily white, The baby Jesus born this night. Some children see Him lily white, With tresses soft and fair. Some children see Him bronzed and brown, The Lord of heav'n to earth come down. Some children see Him bronzed and brown, With dark and heavy hair. Some children see Him almond-eyed, This Savior whom we kneel beside. Some children see Him almond-eyed, With skin of golden hue. Some children see Him dark as they, Sweet Mary's Son to whom we pray. Some children see him dark as they, And, ah! they love Him, too! The children in each different place Will see the baby Jesus' face Like theirs, but bright with heavenly grace, And filled with holy light. O lay aside each earthly thing And with thy heart as offering, Come worship now the infant King. 'Tis love that's born tonight!
** The four male archetypes, “King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover,” describe the four energies of mature masculinity presented by Moore and Gillette, in their book of the same name.
We'd like to thank Alan Downing for contributing this article to Discover Identity