Jesus disciples had something precious that we don't have—a mental picture of Him, what He looked like, His manner, the way He laughed. This is the Jesus they knew.
Too bad the disciples didn't have a camera. Wouldn't you like to see a color photograph of Jesus? Actually, we do have a picture of Him. The disciples didn't have a camera, but they left word pictures. Today, we call them the Gospels, and although they don't describe how Jesus looked, they paint a picture that is even more important—who He was and how He lived.
The snapshot that follow "freeze the action" and gives us a composite portrait of what Jesus was like. Let's take a look.
Know the secret of His birth and that in one important particular He's totally unlike any other baby. He's both divine and human.
He's sleeping now. He can't sit or roll over or lift His head, yet "by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth" (Colossians 1:16). The hands that formed humans from the earth and flung a million stars against the black velvet of space now rest lightly on the straw, His tiny body relaxing as He sleeps.
Once He designed a world of such intricate precision with atoms and molecules, genes and chromosomes that we have only recently begun to understand. But now He will have to learn that two plus two equals four and that fire can burn as well as warm.
The Carpenter of Nazareth
There He is in the back of the shop, carefully planing a board to a smooth finish. He has known since He was 12 years old that He had a special assignment to carry out, but He has willingly remained in Nazareth all through these "silent years." The record says simply that He "grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him" (Luke 2:40).
Silent years, but not wasted. He knows there is a time for everything, and the time for His public work is not yet. Now is the time for being an obedient and cheerful son in the home, a quiet influence for good in the village, an honest and painstaking workman in the shop. Now is the time to grow ever closer to His Father and to develop the character and insights and spiritual resilience that will make His mission successful.
The Son of God is a carpenter. He has no power tools. Everything He does depends on the strength of a man or an animal. He knows the satisfaction that comes at the end of a long day's work, the comfort of stretching aching arms, legs and back.
The Wedding Guest
We usually find Jesus wherever people are. He's almost always in the thick of a crowd in someone's home, by a lake, on the road, in the marketplace or at a wedding. A wedding. That's where we find Him next, moving among the happy guests, pleased by the simple joy of the young couple. A wedding? Didn't Jesus have more important places to spend His limited time on earth?
Not so! A wedding. At the beginning of the world, as Creator, Jesus had placed Eve's hand in Adam's and performed the first marriage. Now, at the beginning of His work as Redeemer, He takes part in the pleasant celebration of another marriage.
The Compassionate Healer
Another crowd, a different day. Jostled and pushed, Jesus makes His way slowly along the road to the home of a synagogue ruler, whose 12-year-old daughter is dying. Everyone follows. Including one woman. She has been subject to bleeding for 12 years and has spent everything she has on doctors, but with no improvement. Desperate now, she struggles through the crowd of people, trying to reach Him. She doesn't expect to ask Him to heal her. It will be enough, she tells herself, to simply touch His robe. Trembling in fear, she reaches out and brushes the edge of His garment, and she feels it instantly. She's cured.
"Who touched Me?" Jesus asks.
"Everyone is touching You," His puzzled friends reply.
"Someone touched Me deliberately," He insists, locking eyes with the woman.
She falls to her knees, spilling out her story in front of everyone. "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace" (Luke 8:42-48). And the synagogue ruler's little girl? The word comes that she died while Jesus was on the road. "Don't be afraid," Jesus reassures the anguished father. "Just believe, and she will be healed” (Luke 8:50). And it's true. Jesus enters the house, and death gives way to the One who is the source of life.
The Master Teacher
On a mountainside with the crowds seated around Him on the grass, in a fishing boat at a lake's edge with the people gathered on the sandy shore, in a late-night interview with a single individual; or with a group of young mothers, their children on His lap, Jesus never fails to talk to people about His Father's kingdom—what it's like, the kind of people who are its citizens and the need to live in that kingdom today in order to participate in its glory tomorrow.
People come in large numbers to hear Jesus because He speaks with freshness and certainty, so unlike the religious teachers they are used to hearing. Almost instinctively, they believe Him. Besides, He makes it easy to understand. No theological philosophy, no splitting words into fine shades of meaning. Even His enemies admit that "no one ever spoke the way this man does" (John 7:46).
The Uncompromising Judge
Here's a Jesus we seldom see—an angry Jesus. Grabbing some cords that merchants have used to lead animals into the temple courtyard, He stands indignantly in the middle of a confused, argumentative scene.
It's Passover. The sacred temple area, dedicated to the worship of God, has become a marketplace where animals for sacrifice are bought and sold. At tables, men accept money bearing the image of the hated Caesar and hand out the temple shekel required for worship. The business is profitable.
Worshipers who have come great distances and who want to participate in the temple service have little choice but to accept the hard bargains. Arguments, the sounds and smells of cattle and sheep, the clinking of coins being passed back and forth. Jesus can stand it no longer. His Father's house was never meant to be like this.
Seizing a nearby table, He overturns it, sending money rolling in all directions. Everyone freezes—startled, dismayed. "Get these out of here!" Jesus orders. "How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!" (John 2:16)
The protests die as men see the look on His face, like the avenging face of God Himself. Terror grips them, and they flee the divine judgment, leaving money and animals behind. Not "gentle Jesus, meek and mild" now. He demonstrates the intensity of His hatred of sin.
The Savior Who Died
Jesus lies prone on the ground in the Garden of Gethsemane, agony etched on His face, fingers digging into the earth, as He faces the sins of every person who ever lived and makes the decision to assume the responsibility for those sins and to die for them.
Battered, but with dignity, He stands before Pilate while the crowd screams for His death. His beard has been torn. Thorn branches have been twisted into an imitation crown and pushed roughly onto His head. His back shows the evidence of the lash—deep cuts black with dried blood. Pilate washes his hands, and Jesus' enemies rub theirs in satisfaction. The crucifixion order is given.
On a hill outside of town, nails tear through living flesh, holding it fast to the wood underneath. Soldiers lift the cross and Victim together, sliding it into the hole already dug, until it strikes the bottom with a jolt. The final torment begins. Pain, difficulty in breathing, thirst, shock and shame—a death designed to be slow and excruciating.
Darkness. A piercing cry: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46). Silence. A last shriek of agony. Death. An earthquake. Snapshots of Jesus. Do you see Him through the eyes of those who saw Him?
This article originally appeared in Signs of the Times in 2012.