The other day a buddy of mine (Shean Smith) posted something on his personal Facebook page that struck a chord with me and motivated me to post my own “rant” (which I called “Wimpy Jesus vs. Manly Joshua”) on the subject from the Facebook page (I also manage) called “I Follow Josh”. With it I attached a comical picture that I found online depicting two versions of Jesus… One as a wimpy guy wearing a “What Would I Do?” t-shirt, a halo around his head and picking his nose as if he had no clue because that’s what his followers try to imagine… and the other image had a more muscular version of Jesus sporting a “Father” tattoo on his arm.
The image both tickled me as well as made me think about the contrast between the Hollywood version of Jesus and the Living Christ of Scripture. I originally created the “I Follow Josh” page so that I could answer Facebook’s profile question of “What’s your religion?” I no longer have a “religion” per say and don’t exactly feel like I conveniently fit in anymore with the typical version of Christianity that most institutional churches indoctrinate people with. So, at least for the purpose of this particular Facebook page, rather than use the familiar name of “Jesus” or the almost generic label of “Christian”, I chose to use the English version of the Hebrew name for Christ, which is Joshua.
I tend to think that most people in church world have a hard time envisioning Christ in connection with the name Joshua (because of tradition) and that was the whole point of my page… to emphasize the bold difference between religion’s “Jesus” and the Messiah that Scripture presents. One seems to be little more than a religious icon; a mascot if you will – the figurehead of a religious organization or empire. The other is a living person who is not merely a man who lived long ago and far away but literally GOD who saves sinners and is alive and desires to KNOW us! So, with that basic introduction, here is the article I posted on Facebook (for those of you that have not seen it yet). As a side note, I’d like to add that if you aren’t crazy about using the typical “Christian” label on your Facebook profiles either, feel free to visit the “I Follow Josh” page, LIKE it, and then add it to your profile in the religion field.
The page is primarily just a fun way to make a meaningful statement that avoids the typical label and stereotypes of religion and might invite someone to think a little more deeply about what knowing the Lord is all about. I hope no one finds this little rant offensive… That certainly was not my intention. I’m not sure it’s particularly “profound” either… It’s just a blog post from an ordinary guy with a sincere conviction intended to provoke thought and discussion. I honestly have no problem with the name of Jesus and the point was never to criticize anyone for using the name of Jesus. I hope the contrast I intended to convey will be made clear by the article.
With God’s love,
Wimpy Jesus vs. Manly Joshua!
(from the “I Follow Josh” Facebook page)
Jesus (ahem… “Joshua” as we like to say around here) was absolutely not a wimp (as is often depicted in modern “storybook” versions and movies). For the record, all of you know I’m not against using the name Jesus (which is basically a transliteration of Joshua from the Greek to Latin to English) so, to start off here, put your “I’m offended” switch away. You can use the name Jesus or Joshua or Yeshua or Yehoshua and we’re all good… I use “Jesus” very often myself and will at times here too (for more information concerning the whole Joshua concept of this page, please read the About section of “I Follow Josh”)…
I do like to refer to the name Joshua often times because, not only is this the Lord’s name (as transliterated to English from the Hebrew), but it’s such a mighty name in my view (when I think of the patriarch Joshua from the Old Testament – the warrior leader)! Sometimes I just get so annoyed with the religious icon of “Jesus”, who I dare say is really a different Jesus than the one Scripture presents and whom I walk with every day of my life. So my comments are about breaking out of stereotypical, religious misconceptions and exciting us to think about reality here! Christ is Lord! He is not the typical puny-looking poster-perfect, blond haired, blue-eyed Hollywood Jesus! He is the literal persona of strength, truth, wisdom, justice, sovereign king, and magnificent love… He is GOD!
Josh (Jesus), the man, indeed was full of the Father’s love and cared about widows, orphans, the sick and downtrodden – but even for these His love was boldly demonstrated without any timidity. He defended these types and rebuked their oppressors! When He witnessed widows being taken advantage of He pointed to the vile actions of the religious leaders and plainly told His followers that it is these types who devour widows houses and take advantage of them financially. He pointed to the little widow who cast all her living into the Temple treasury, not as a commendation of her charity (which is how most pastors spin the story), but as an example of how the religious leaders took advantage of the weak. This is evidenced by the Lord’s comment concerning the religious leaders in the very same chapter (just before He observes and points out the widow).
To those who might cause little ones to stumble in error (i.e. causing them to fall into sin), He said it would be better if those people had a millstone wrapped around their neck and were cast into the sea (Mark 9:42). Certainly not a politically-correct, wimpy response to the issue. Josh also went on to say that if a person’s own body part causes them to sin, they should just cut it off. That doesn’t sound very nice for Hollywood Jesus to say!
To the religious leaders, the supposed icons of holiness in the community, Christ mixed no words – calling them a “generation of vipers” worthy of damnation in Hell (Matthew 23:33).
To the money-changers in the Temple, selling their religious goods “for God” (sound familiar) he turned over their merchandise tables and used a whip (that He fashioned Himself) to drive them forcefully out of the place of prayer (Mark 11:15-18; John 2:13-17).
Lord Josh did not give happy little accolades to those who go through religious motions and faithfully attend their religious activities as though just being part of a church program made you acceptable to God. The Lord is interested in those who know Him and walk with Him. Instead He said that one day there would be many who stood before Him, boasting of their religious deeds (even calling Him their Lord) and yet He will call them cursed lawbreakers who are not His friends, and cast them into the lake of fire, originally prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 7:22-23)! Ouch! No wimpy Jesus there!
Remember too that Josh (Christ) was a carpenter’s son and was raised in that profession. Back in those days, carpentry did not involve convenient little tools like electric nail guns, skill-saws, and perfectly-shaped lumber from Home Depot, loaded by a fork-lift and transported by a large truck to the construction site. They worked with large beams, shaping the items by hand, and the work required strong muscles and heavy manual labor. Jesus would not have been a skinny, scrawny wimp just by virtue of his trade. I believe it’s also natural to presume that he continued to maintain his skills and probably served others with his abilities throughout His life.
I am also reminded of how, when Judas came to betray Him, an entire garrison of soldiers followed him armed with swords and clubs. If the Lord was some wimpy little guy, why would a garrison of solders be sent along? We also know that Peter carried a sword (which leads us to presume that the disciples were also generally armed and carried defense weapons) and His initial reaction was to fight, even though the Lord did tell him that this was not the time and to put away his sword. Remember also that when the soldiers asked if He was Jesus of Nazareth, the very response of “I AM” caused the entire garrison of armed soldiers to fall to the ground! Absolutely NOT a wimp! He was able to stop an army with the sound of His voice (and, of course, not because He had a big voice, but because of who He truly was – GOD)!
Look at how John observed Christ in the book of Revelation… Tell me, does He look like a wimp to anyone here?
Revelation 19:11-16 – Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for He judges fairly and wages a righteous war. His eyes were like flames of fire, and on His head were many crowns. A name was written on Him that no one understood except Himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and His title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed Him on white horses. From His mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. On His robe at His thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords.
In the world of religion it seems were are so often inundated with images of Christ as either a helpless baby in a manger or a skinny, whiny, beaten down man on a cross. But think of even these traditional images and consider that a manger was not a cute little baby-crib; it was a smelly, dirty trough for animals. When people asked Him, “Hey Josh, were you born in a barn or something?” He could truthfully answer, “Yes, I was.” These were not wimpy, mild conditions. This was rough and uneasy.
When He gave His life on the cross, He endured multiple beatings with flesh-cutting whips (Mark 15:15), punches in the face and spitting in his face (Matthew 26:67-68), His beard torn from the flesh of His face (Isaiah 50:6), thorns driven into His skull (John 19:2), and large spikes were driven through His wrists and the scripture says that He didn’t even open His mouth (Isaiah 53:7). How many of us would break under the intense pressure and pain? At one point, the soldiers even offered him a drugged beverage (Mark 15:23) which was intended to reduce the pain and suffering of the person being crucified, yet Jesus REFUSED this drink. He actually denied the painkiller and chose to fully endure the punishment for our sin. This is no wimpy Christ.
The Scripture also says that no one took His life, but He gave it willingly. He decided when it was finished. Yes, He suffered immeasurably to pay the price for our sin, but it is absolutely vital to realize that He was not a wimp and though He even said Himself that He could have summoned 12 legions (which is a count of approximately 40,000 according to the standard Roman military figure of that time) of mighty heavenly angels to come to His aid (Matthew 26:53), He CHOSE to show God’s love and to suffer for our sake. This is not a timid love. This is not a Jesus beaten by the system. This is GOD who GAVE His own life. God, who could have easily slaughtered the whole lot of humanity for their ignorance, cruelty, and wickedness… yet chose to let human-kind run their course of evil to its maximum extent and then forgive them anyway and gift them with unmerited favor and the riches of His kingdom for all who would receive.
John 10:17-18 – “The Father loves Me because I sacrifice My life so I may take it back again. No one can take My life from Me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what My Father has commanded.”
Josh never took the easy route. The Scripture is absolutely clear that He did whatever His Father instructed Him to do. He was not worried about how things appeared to politically-sensitive, would-be-offended people. If His Father said, “Do this!” He said, “Done dad!” If His Father said, “This is what you must say because this is who I AM and what it right and true,” then He said, “That is exactly what I will say dad!”
Again, none of this is to suggest that Joshua was a bully! Certainly not! He was moved by compassion and always acted with real love. Yes, He expressed tenderness, love for children, concern for the hurting… God is Love and love permeated through every action. Not merely some emotionally gooey love that is worried about being politically correct or hyper sensitive to cultural opinions, but real Godly love that was concerned about the souls of men and their plight.
He was and IS not afraid to be found in the company of those that the religious world regarded as sinners, filthy, dangerous, corrupt, “those that ought to be avoided”, or ungodly. He was and IS not pushed around by religious or cultural stereotypes. He looked men and women in the eye, exposed their hearts, spoke straight to the issue, unashamedly addressed their sin, and impacted them with the amazing love of God. No fear for violating some religious/church tradition. No fear of what onlookers might think. No deviation from His mission. No compromise! Like a laser beam to the target, He accomplished every objective His Father sent Him to accomplish.
No wonder we see so few actual miracles today… We have a generation of people who have in their minds a weakling imaginary Jesus. They love to use the phrase “W.W.J.D.” (What Would Jesus Do?), which only treats the Lord as though He were dead! Think about it! You only wonder what someone would do if you don’t believe they are THERE! WWJD leaves the matter of Christ’s will to human imagination and guest work.
My natural dad passed away years ago. We were very close, I love him with all my heart, and I miss him terribly. He taught me many things that continue to influence my decisions today. It’s normal for me to wonder, “What would my dad do if he were here, one earth, alive, today?” The great and obvious difference here is that Joshua (or Jesus if you prefer) is NOT DEAD! I don’t have to guess. I don’t have to wonder what He might do if He were still around today. HE IS HERE NOW! HE IS ALIVE! HE IS NOT STILL DEAD ON A CROSS OR IN A TOMB! He is the Master and He actively speaks today! There is no “What Would Jesus Do?” in my vocabulary anymore! No wimpy, dead Jesus in my view!
What if more people experience the revelation that He really is ALIVE (and not just alive but is our warrior KING and sovereign God)? Don’t you believe this would utterly transform the way they think about life and God’s involvement in our daily routine? There would be nothing routine about it! It would not be some convenient religion we control. It would be an active relationship in full motion!
It would change how people pray too. In the first place, Christians tend to think of prayer as this religious act whereby you close your eyes and bow your head, start with “Dear Jesus”, say the words “Father God” a hundred times, and then close with “Amen”. But prayer is simply a word the Bible uses to describe communication with God. Think of how you talk to your closest friend or family member and then compare that with some of the “interesting” ways people “pray” to God… Does the typical expression of prayer seem odd? Well, that’s another tangent, not for me to judge… My point is simply that if really regarded the Lord as a REAL and LIVING person, GOD Himself with us, we might talk to Him a little differently.
When I see these televangelists telling people to “name it and claim it” and order God around like Santa Clause or something, it infuriates me. There’s no reverence of Him as supreme sovereign Master and, make no mistake, God will not be bullied. Yes He is love. Yes He is our Father who loves us and desires to give us the Kingdom (and who invites to come unashamed and boldly before His throne), but He is also to be reverently feared as our sovereign Master. When we come before God with a reverence and humility along with the understanding that we are also His adopted children whom He loves, it changes everything about how we approach Him and how He responds to us. The problem is that men have molded God in THEIR image and have inadvertently created a false god in the process.
No sir, no ma’am… The Lord is not some cutely-carved crucifix that hangs from the mirror in my car or resides on the back of my t-shirt in cartoon form. He is not the post card image that Hollywood has routinely portrayed. He doesn’t float around in our imaginations with a pretty little halo around His artistically perfect head flashing the Roman Catholic peace sign. He’s not sitting around in heaven, picking His nose, while everyone on earth who claims to be a Christian imagines what He would do if He had any ability to tell us Himself but can’t. He is the MIGHTY GOD!
That’s a little more of why I enjoy using the name Joshua (and made the “I Follow Josh” Facebook page to describe the “religious affiliation” question that Facebook invites people to fill in on their profiles), because it helps to break the stereotype and gets people thinking about what they’re saying and whom they are talking about. I don’t really care for the generalized “Christian” label because of all the religious baggage that has been added to it over the centuries. God, to me, has nothing to do with belonging to some facet of organized, institutionalized religion. And the point (as it concerns the Lord’s name) really isn’t whether or not we’re technically pronouncing the Lord’s physical name correctly. It’s whether or not we are worshiping the God of Scripture, the One who LIVES, or the god of religion’s device – who is nothing more than a dead mascot on a stick.
Thanks to my buddy Shean for stirring up my thinking about this again today (with a recent post he listed on his Facebook page).