What did Jesus look like?

5/5/2014

GROWING IN GRACE
BEN GOSDEN

Recently, National Public Radio ran a story about a controversial sculpture installed at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Davidson, N.C.

The statue depicts Jesus as a homeless man, wrapped in a blanket, curled up on a park bench. The only signs that give away his identity are the crucifixion scars on his feet, which are sticking out from under the blanket.

The church is in an upscale neighborhood and has received mixed reactions from those who live nearby. Some feel it’s a disrespectful way to depict the Son of God.

Others feel it’s right in line with who Jesus said he was when he reminds people that foxes and birds have places to sleep but that the Son of God had nowhere to lay his head (Matthew 8:20). It’s a fascinating debate to be had.

A couple of weeks ago we celebrated Easter Sunday. Worshippers all over South Georgia and the entire world sang songs and heard the story of a man who was raised from the dead to triumph over sin and death. We prayed and preached about the majesty and glory of who we claim to be the Savior of the world raised by a mighty and powerful God.

This image of a strong and vibrant Jesus doesn’t seem to align with this depiction of the homeless Jesus sleeping on a park bench. Surely Jesus was strong and handsome. Surely he was more like that good looking actor who portrayed him in the recent movie, “Son of God,” and not at all like the helpless and homeless person whose only rest is found on a cold and harsh public bench.

At Mulberry we had the pleasure of having my good friend, the Rev. Creede Hinshaw, preach for our Holy Week services. One sermon in particular challenged me when he asked two simple questions: What did Jesus look like? And why should it matter?

These are good questions. I’ve sat with and ruminated over them all the way through Easter and into the writing of this column.

You see, I’m reminded that Jesus appeared to his friends and they recognized him not because of his dazzling glory, but because of his wounds – those beautiful scars that served as signs of how love can triumph over a violent and hate-filled world.

As we come down from the high of Easter Sunday, we should be convicted by a Jesus who is scarred because it serves as yet another example of how God sees beauty in things we might never consider beautiful.

Beauty is found in scars and wounds. Beauty is found in the faces and figures of those among us who are homeless and have nowhere to lay their heads. Beauty is also found in us – despite all of the moments where our hearts might be hard and our ugly prejudices might be evident – because no matter what, God loves all of us beyond imagination.

God sees us for who and what we are, and loves us enough to call us to change and live in the light of his amazing love. All of this is a miracle – the true miracle of Easter.

The Rev. Ben Gosden is an associate pastor at Mulberry Street United Methodist Church in Macon. He can be reached at bgosden@mulberrymethodist.org.