True Portrait of Jesus

by Oleg Kostyuk




There are many puzzling questions that we can ask about Jesus: Who is Jesus? What was His mission? What did He think about His mission?


The majority of Christians nowadays think about Jesus in terms of just two events in His life: the manger and the cross. It seems as though nothing else is important. Jesus came and Jesus saved, that's all. I can imagine the four evangelists - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John - saying, “Wait a minute, but we also wrote about His actions, His teachings. After all, we wrote them for a reason!” Perhaps, they wanted us to learn something about the character of Jesus. Perhaps, they wanted us to understand what His mission was.


In a previous post I mentioned seeing a group of painters working on a restoration of old images on the walls of an old Russian monastery. With gentleness and great care they were taking off the layers of paint which had been added throughout the years by other painters. Ancient painters thought that they were preserving the beauty by adding more and more paint on the wall. Instead, they were actually spoiling the original beauty of the painting which had been lovely in its simplicity.


It is a rather common assumption that the world around us dictates how we understand certain things. Our understanding of Jesus and His mission also falls under that assumption. We see Jesus through racial intolerance; we see Jesus through the prism of the feminist movement; we see Jesus through the prism of today’s politics; we see Jesus through the prism of the books about Jesus; we see Jesus through the eyes of our pastor or an atheist teacher. Some say that Jesus was an ancient prophet; others say He was the Son of God; still others say that He was an exemplary leader, a doctor; a miracle worker. Was He any of those things or all of those things in one? What was His mission?


We can see the true portrait of the real Jesus, we just need to peel away the layers of tradition that have formed our understanding of the Gospels and try to see the Jesus of the Gospels in His original, Jewish context. But what is extremely important is that we see Him with our own eyes, not someone else's. It is possible only if we open the Scriptures. You will see Him and, on Cross Connection, we will help you understand the Jewish context of the time and place in which He lived.


Trust me, it is possible.


I like an illustration used by 11th century Jewish Rabbi Bahya Ibn Pakudah about how the Bible should be treasured:

The Scriptures are like a letter written by a king to a subject whom he loves. But when it arrives, the words have faded and the writing is unclear. Out of love for the king, knowing he's reading the very words written by the king's hand, the subject is happy to decipher it – in fact, he sees the difficulty of the task as proof of his love, strong enough to be put to the test.[1]

Oh well, I think it is time for me to stop, since, you, probably, want to meet Jesus on the pages of your Bible...








[1] Louis Jacobs, The Book of Jewish Belief (West Orange, NJ: Behrman House, 1983), pp. 2-3. The original author was Rabbi Bahya Ibn Pakudah, 11th century.

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