By Anthony Casperson
It sat on the floor of a professor’s office. Resting against a wall, it awaited the day of its proper placement. The canvas with patterned pigments portrayed a picture. The image contained upon the painting was one of Jesus.
I’ve seen many representations of Jesus in visual art. Many showcasing the act of sacrifice that brought about salvation for all who call upon his name. Quite a few of the beginning of the enfleshment of the Savior, as the baby rests in a manger surrounded by his parents and other witnesses. Some testify of his power in his Second Coming. A few pick moments of Jesus’ ministry, like the crowds gathered as he preaches or his miraculous wonders performed before them. One even imagined Jesus’ glance toward Peter as the Apostle denied his Messiah.
But none had ever struck me as this picture did.
I sat entranced with this image through the window of my professor’s office when I was in bible college. There was no cross. No wounds or scars. No radiant light behind the Savior of humanity. It didn’t contain symbolism or a strict form of theology.
His head tilted back in a slight angle. The eyes were closed. His mouth opened in a giant grin. Jesus was laughing.
A jovial Jesus, I’d never seen anything like it before. His sacrifice, sure. His glory, yeah. His power, absolutely. But his human emotions, never.
The image struck me because I had always thought of Jesus by means of what he did as Savior, and who he was as God-man. His work, his mission, always took prominence in my picture of him. But this singular image painted in the Person between those lines.
Was Jesus funny? Did he have a sense of humor? Did he ever sarcastically poke fun at something? Since Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity enfleshed in humanity, he likely maintained a similar personality as the Godhead. And we see in the bible that God can get sarcastic. He uses and showcases various types of humor in his word.
Jesus experienced the entire range of human emotions. He grew angry at those cheating others in the temple courtyard. He wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus, whom he was about to raise. Jesus was frustrated at the willful blindness of the Pharisees. What makes us think that Jesus and his closest followers didn’t tell a few fart jokes? They were male fishermen. I mean, come on.
Though largely speaking of understanding us in our temptation and sin, Hebrews 4:15 tells us that we have a high priest who is able to sympathize with us in all things. He knows what it means to be human. Not just in service to God, but in the strange silliness of life.
That image on the professor’s office floor taught me of the reality of Jesus between the stories we know. A Jesus who is not just a character in a story with specific requirements to fulfill the plot. Rather, a real person who laughed and cried, who got excited and frustrated, who knows what it means to exist in this messy melange of emotion. And yet still fulfilled what the Father had called him to do.
That gives me resolve that even when I don’t know how I feel, God understands me. When I laugh and cry at the same time, when I’m angry yet regretful of my outburst, when nothing seems to make sense, my Savior has experienced similar moments.
And the same is true for all of us who call upon his name. He knows. He understands, more intimately than anyone else in the world. And he’s with us in those moments.
When we’re in those in-between moments, let’s remember our Savior’s here with us.