The Unlikely Messiah
Hollywood tries to portray Jesus as a robed and sandaled Fabio. But according to scripture there was nothing about His appearance to attract us to Him, “He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him” (Isaiah 53:2 NKJV).
Most likely, He looked anything but the part of the Messiah. Those who accepted Jesus as Messiah received a revelation of who He was. Remember Peter’s response and Jesus’ follow-up when Jesus quizzed His disciples about who people thought He was and they named off several prophets. Then Jesus asked them, “‘But who do you say that I am?’ / Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ / Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven’” (Matthew 16:15-17 NKJV). Jesus plainly affirmed Peter’s correct answer did not come from human reasoning but it was a revelation from the Father.
Jesus was a Galilean. He was often called Jesus of Nazareth. Even though He was of the lineage of King David and His birth city was Bethlehem, He was raised in Nazareth of Galilee. Galilee was the northern province of Israel in Jesus’ day. Jesus spent most of His time in Galilee; the majority of His parables, teaching, and miracles happened in His home province.
The Judeans were a little snobbish when it came to the Galileans. Jerusalem, the political and religious capital, was in the province of Judea. To make matters even worse, the provinces of Galilee and Judea were separated by Samaria and the Samaritans were not even considered fully Jewish, ethnically or religiously. So there was a cultural as well as a geographic barrier between the Galileans and the Judeans.
The general population in Galilee was more racially mixed. They also had more of a Greek influence than the Judeans. Within the province were pagan people and pagan cities. The Judeans thought the Galileans were not as sophisticated and not as religiously adherent to the Jewish faith as they were. The Romans even had less influence in Galilee than in Jerusalem and this is probably why some of Jesus’ followers were former zealots (another word for extremists).
The Galileans even spoke different. Peter at the high priest house when Jesus was being questioned, was told that his speech gave him away, “But he denied it again. And a little later those who stood by said to Peter again, ‘Surely you are one of them; for you are a Galilean, and your speech shows it’” (Mark 14:70 NKJV). The Galilean speech was a little sloppy and they dropped their “h”s. “Beth-le-hem” would have probably been pronounced more like “Bet-le-em. So from a Judeans’ point of view, the Galileans were a bunch of “country hicks”.
So when Jesus showed up in Jerusalem with His rag-tag Galilean disciples, the Judeans probably sneered. The religious pride dictated that the Messiah would be a Judean. When Nicodemus was defending Jesus to the council, they replied to him, “Are you also from Galilee? Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee” (John 7:52 NKJV).
The Judean religious leaders did not accept Jesus as Messiah for various reasons and surely one of those reasons was nothing but cultural snobbery. Surely, they assumed the Messiah would be from Judea, for even the scriptures said He would come from Bethlehem—no one asked! He was born in His ancestral city of Bethlehem but reared in Nazareth of Galilee.
Hollywood tries to dress Jesus up to fit centuries old religious works of art. The church tries to dress Jesus up to make Him more agreeable to our cultural whims. There is no need to dress Jesus up—He was a cultural Galilean who fit in with carpenters, fishermen, and field workers. Prostitutes washed His feet, tax collectors fed Him dinner, a Samaritan woman gave Him water, an un-clean woman touched the hem of His garment, He healed a blind man with spit and mud, He touched lepers, and He raised a rotting dead man to life. What an unlikely Messiah He was!
For centuries the church has often portrayed Jesus in every way that He is not. We have glamorized Him instead of glorifying Him. We have paraded Him instead of proclaiming Him. We have tried to explain Him than exemplify Him. We have tried to represent Jesus to the world with pipe organs, flowing robes, and candles; padded pews, three piece suits, and hymn books; khakis, button-down oxford shits, and praise choruses; praise bands, skinny jeans/V-neck t-shirts, and fog machines–there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these things, I was just trying to be an equal opportunity offender! But to the point, what kind of Jesus are we trying to portray?
As a pastor, I understand we need to reduce the barriers for some to hear the message, we need to put our best foot forward, and we have to use bait if we catch fish; yet, we need to understand that evangelism is only possible through the revelation of who Jesus is not a sales technique. Sure we can boast of commitment cards, hands raised, and even baptisms but how many people are really following Jesus after a year’s time.
The hard point I am trying to make with this; we are often trying to “sell” Jesus on some superficial level when He can never be followed on that level. Our faith is placed in Him at the raw and deep level of our spirit. If a person is “hyped” into Jesus then when the high wears off, they will be just as lost and wandering as before. (Read the Parable of the Soils in Matthew 13:3-8 with Jesus’ explanation in verses 18-23.)
Jesus has always desired followers who die to themselves, who lay down their lives as true lovers of God and man, who bow down as His servants, yet walk tall in the world as His adoring children, caring not for a legacy of their own but to proclaim the glorious Gospel of His Kingdom to the blind and dying in all of the world.
We cannot dress Jesus up to please the world. It will never happen. There is a diabolical stream flowing through the world to hate the Messiah and His followers. Do we really think we can be Jesus’ PR representative to make Him appealing to the world? His Father never did! Jesus, Himself warned His disciples that the world would hate us because it also hated Him (see John 15:18-19).
What do we do? We simply preach Jesus in word and deed! When we preach the Word of God, there will be those who will receive a revelation that Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed Messiah of God, crucified and resurrected! He will be revealed to many who will follow this Galilean Messiah. He is King of kings and Lord of lords!! He is Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God. He is “the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [Him]” (John 14:6 NKJV).
We do not need to dress Him up, we just need to preach Him crucified and resurrected–Heaven will open their hearts, He will give them life, and they follow Him going along with us.
Note: When we see Him again, He will be glorified. He will catch every eye. Every eye will behold Him even those who pierced Him. Every knee will bow to Him and every mouth will confess Him as the King, the Son of the Living God; Who was, Who is, and Who shall for ever be!!
Scripture: Isaiah 53:1-3 NKJV
(1) Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? (2) For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. (3) He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
My Prayer: Father, let me live like Jesus; living, loving, and serving like Him. Let my mouth proclaim Him and my life resemble Him to the world. When I share the Gospel by preaching and by living; open blind eyes to see Him, open hearts to receive Him, and move feet to follow Him.
Listen to my May 2017 podcast titled “The Unlikely Messiah” here.