In your own thinking, where does Jesus come from? I am not talking about a physical place in Palestine so Bethlehem is out. I am talking about the influences that have shaped your view of Jesus to this point in your life. There are a lot of sources that shape our views of Christ over time.
The media can certainly influence how we see Jesus. Our views of Jesus can be easily handed to us in 30 minute intervals once a week or through a televangelist. For some they might come from movies like the Passion of the Christ or more toned down versions seen in movies and television.
Scripture can impact our mental image of Jesus. Our views can be formed over countless hours of personal study of eyewitnesses and ancient investigators like M,M,L, & J. Maybe Paul has informed your views of Jesus more than even the Gospels depending on which parts of the New Testament you spend the most time in. Some have relied on the Old Testament and extra biblical literature to get a fully formed view of Jesus as Messiah and Rabbi.
Life experience can shape our image of Jesus. Tough times and trials can often make or break our faith. Struggles can lead to acknowledgment and dependence on Jesus or a rejection of Him. It is often through the key of life experiences that doorways of opportunity are opened up to deeper and more personal experiences with God. Meditation and prayer can have an impact on how we view Jesus as we tend to have closer relationships with those we actually have conversations with.
Race can even impact our view of Jesus. It is interesting that different cultures use art to depict Jesus in a way that is most like their own culture. One place you see this are depictions of the Last Supper. We have Caucasian renditions, African-American renditions (see pictures below) and others…This is one instance where it is plain to see we are trying very hard to make Jesus relate-able to ourselves in our particular culture, time, and place.
I am sure we have all been touched by various influences over periods of our lives that have helped influenced our view of Jesus Christ. What is interesting to me is that ultimately we bear His image and not the other way around. In other words, He is not something we alter and shape to fit who we want him to be (which is what prooftexting attempts to do). Instead, God has made us in His own image so that we could conform to his likeness (Gen 1:26 & Rom 8:29). Our image of Jesus has a direct bearing on how we see his presence in our lives being lived out on a daily basis. The kind of Jesus we see in our mind’s eye has an impact on the kind of follower we are going to be. For example, if you view Jesus as someone only there to help you out when things are tough then chances are you won’t be very focused on Him when things are going smoothly. But if you view Him as the song goes as, “Lord of creation and Lord of my life” then we can begin to understand how His image and our image are to become more and more similar as we continually submit to His good, pleasing and perfect will.
Jesus is not subject to our opinions or views of him. There is an ultimate reality of who Jesus is and what He calls us to do and to be. On the road to Damascus, we don’t find Paul shouting to the risen Lord…”You can’t be the messiah!” Instead he is humbled and brought flat on his face with the reality of who Jesus is and the call He placed on Paul’s life. It is important that we recognize what influences our thinking that either help or hinder our view of Christ so that we can be conformed more and more into his likeness each and every day.