Jesus’ Reputation

23 Jul
from Google Images

from Google Images

Have you ever wondered how people saw you—what they thought of you?[1] What have you done, or perhaps didn’t do, simply in order to enhance an image of yourself that you wanted folks to embrace? I remember my days as a teenager and how the right clothes seemed so important. I am so amused whenever I view of photo of myself taken just before I picked up my date for the junior prom. I wouldn’t want to be found dead dressed like that today! I remember embarrassing moments growing up when people saw me from a perspective I tried to hide. Often it is difficult to see through a façade, but we get better at it as we get older. Funny, though, that most of us never learn to reject pretense completely and simply let others see us as we are. Why do you think that is so?

Jesus, on the other hand, never tried to be something he wasn’t. He was God made flesh (John 1:14), and appeared so in order that folks would be able to see, in the flesh, what God was like. In Philippians 2:7 we find that the One who became Jesus “made himself nothing…” (NIV) or “made himself of no reputation” (KJV). The same Greek word (G2758) is used in 1Corinthians 1:17 for the cross of Christ being “of no effect” if Paul preached the Gospel under the guise of worldly wisdom. So, God was made flesh, but his appearance or presence had no natural effect upon men (cp. Isaiah 53:2-3). Just as men are not naturally drawn to God, no one was naturally drawn to Jesus. In fact, one’s first impulse was that men didn’t wish to be associated with him (Isaiah 53:3). Folks, even family, often thought Jesus was a little odd (Mark 3:21; cp. 2Corinthians 5:13). So, this is the kind of God that Jesus revealed to us in his human life—i.e. having a reputation no one else wanted, having no honor among men.

What would that look like today? Undoubtedly, it would be difficult for us in America to understand. We have agencies, whose sole purpose of existence is to make their clients more presentable to the public than they actually are. So, whether one is running for political office or selling a product, the public sees what these agencies want us to see. In other words we are influenced by key words and specific window dressing etc., so that the agencies’ clients’ appearance would have a desired effect. So, the philosophy that is always before the eyes of modern people (especially Americans) is completely opposed to “having a reputation no one else wants or having no honor among men.”

If we are to act like Jesus, would we actually desire to be known as most men don’t want to be known or to have no honor among our fellows in the world? Perhaps, I don’t understand Philippians 2:7 properly, or have taken the idea too far, but I’m really making a conscious effort to see the scripture in its context and hoping not to go beyond its intended meaning. Time and time again, Jesus broke with social tradition and correct behavior to confront a wrong or to lift up or shed light upon the good. In Luke 7:36-48 Jesus reprimanded his righteous host and pointed to the correct behavior of the one who had been an open sinner. Who would do such a thing in today’s society? Yet, according to Jesus, this is what God is like, but we can’t see it unless we are able to observe the hearts of the truly repentant sinner and the one having the reputation of living a clean lifestyle. We may not be able to see this, but Jesus discloses it for us, saying both the righteous and the unrighteous are forgiven (Luke 7:42), but the one having the terrible reputation (by contrast) was the one most likely to love God more (Luke 7:42-43).

Jesus was considered by the in crowd to be the friend of sinners (the wrong people) and tax-collectors (those who enhance the power of the enemies of the in crowd), and he was thought to have taken part in too much partying to be considered seriously by clear-headed folks (Matthew 11:19). If he sought to be popular with the right people, Jesus did all the wrong things, and not only so, but, even if the counter culture began to receive him in great numbers, Jesus simply went elsewhere (Mark 1:37-38). It is difficult to pin Jesus down to having a particular disposition, except to say that he had the reputation of offending everyone, had no honor among his peers and even when he began to have some degree of popularity, he simply left those people to reconsider their thoughts about him, while he helped and taught folks elsewhere—not the perfect example of success according to today’s worldview! The question is: what sort of Jesus do I model in my life, or put another way, could folks see the real Jesus by observing or listening to me?


[1] As I said HERE, this current theme about the person of Jesus is based upon the book: The Jesus Style by Gayle Erwin. They are my thoughts about his book. He may or may not agree with the impression his book has made upon me, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading what Gayle wrote and recommend his book to anyone who is looking for a good read about Jesus.

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Posted by on July 23, 2015 in Jesus


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