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Men and Jesus

Men and Jesus

Feminine Jesus

Our pictures say it all: long, flowing hair with equally long, flowing robes.  Jesus hardly appears manly in most modern images of him.  If anything, except for his perfectly coiffed beard, a slight nod to his masculinity, he appears effeminate.

The earliest depictions were quite different.  Ancient artists most frequently showed him as a clean shaven, short haired shepherd carrying a lamb over his shoulders.  He wears a robe in the custom of the Roman Empire, but it is a worker’s tunic with short sleeves and leather thongs wrapping his bare lower legs.  He is dressed for hard work.  In the ancient world, only wealthy men, who did no manual labor, wore long robes such as the toga.  Joseph’s brothers hated him, because his father gave him a long sleeved coat, unfit for work, while they had to tend the sheep and perform the other chores (Genesis 37:3-4).

According to scholars, the feminization of Jesus began in the 12th and 13th centuries.  Jesus had become a remote and judgmental figure after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire.  Medieval society reinforced this image.  Jesus became more accessible and human during the High or Late Middle Ages with the decline of the rigid feudal order.   Images of Mary and the infant Jesus grew in popularity.

With the dawn of the industrial revolution, when upper body strength no longer gave men such an advantage in the work world, women began to assume a greater role in public life.  In time, a move developed for a more manly Christianity, perhaps in reaction against women’s greater public role.  Images of Jesus became a battleground with different groups crafting them to support their viewpoint.

Sociologists and anthropologists contend that gender is a social construct.  Although biology dictates certain obvious things, such as who births a baby, societal norms dictate roles and expectations.  When I was a child in the 1960's, middle class husbands provided for the family and wives raised the children.  Today, both work outside the home, and raise the children, although women still earn less and provide more child care.   Societal values influence our visual representations of women and men including Jesus.

Biblical Image of Jesus

Although we do not know in fact how Jesus looked, I believe the ancient artists were closer to the truth, even if Jesus was not an actual shepherd.  The people of Nazareth in Mark 6:3, after hearing Jesus teach in their synagogue, ask disparagingly, “Is not this the carpenter?”  The Greek word translated as “carpenter” may also be rendered “builder” or “craftsman.”  There is speculation that Jesus was a stone mason since rock was normally used in the Nazareth area to build homes and public facilities.  Regardless of his exact profession, Jesus worked hard physically.  He would have looked more like a working man than a man of leisure with long, flowing robes, hair and beard.

If Jesus looked manly, he was also caring.  He called his followers to love God and neighbor (Matthew 22:37-39).  He fed the hungry (Matthew 14:13-21).  He accepted women disciples (Luke 10:39), unlike other teachers of his time, who refused to even talk to women publicly (John 4:27).

Jesus seems to me to be a man for our times.  While my own place and time undoubtedly shape my conclusion, Jesus seems a lot like the men I know who are neither effeminate nor hyper macho.  Perhaps it is simplistic to say, but, in many ways, Jesus comes across like a regular guy.   He shows us that the Christian faith truly is for men as well as women.

Men’s Breakfast Saturday

This Saturday March 7 our Men’s Group will have a Men’s Breakfast at 8 a.m. in the fellowship hall.  Nacy McConnell is preparing casseroles for us.  I plan on attending.  I believe it is important that Grace has a men’s ministry, a group where regular guys can have a good time together and grow in their faith.

We are blessed that the Rev. Dr. Melvin McPhearson will speak to us about Men and Faith.  Melvin served as a construction engineer in the US Army for over twenty years.  While in the Army, he heard the call to ordained ministry.   Melvin serves now as a VA and hospital chaplain.  Melvin is a man of action and a man of faith.  I cannot think of anyone better to talk to us about this important subject.  Melvin’s talk, our comradery and Nacy’s food will make for a great time!  Join us Saturday!

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Saturday, 11 July 2020