How to Describe Jesus

6th century mosaic in Ravenna portrays Jesus long-haired and bearded, dressed as a Greco-Roman priest and king. He appears as the Pantokrator enthroned as in the Book of Revelation, donning regal Tyrian purple, gesturing a benediction, with a sun cross halo behind his head. Though depictions of Jesus are culturally important, no undisputed record of Jesus' appearance exists.Much of what we characterize to Jesus comes from the Gospel accounts of His life. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any passage that effectively outlines in detail His personality. Sure, we can easily come up with adjectives that describe is nature, but what about a deeply descriptive outline of Him.

It seems quite apparent why first century writers would have a difficult time portraying the man Jesus was. Jesus taught spiritual truths with passion – but Jesus was one of, if not the only man, to ever fully live what He preached; He was goodness incarnate…how does one describe such a thing? Think about if you encountered someone like this today, someone who followed righteousness without flaw and complete self neglect. How could you possibly put into words what that individual embodies? Perhaps “love” is the closest thing we have, and it doesn’t do nearly the justice deserved.

It may surprise you to know that such a description exists, and it comes to us from Paul in 1 Corinthians 13. The passage is as follows:

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in truth; love bears all things, believes in all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

This passage about love is not to be read as if Paul is describing a quality that we already know of (love), but instead it is a descriptor of the nature of Jesus. Simply replace “love” and its references with “Jesus”…see below:

Jesus is patient; Jesus is kind; Jesus is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. He does not insist on His own way; He is not irritable or resentful; He does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in truth; Jesus bears all things, believes in all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Jesus never ends.

Jesus’ name is Love – and Love is who, and what, Jesus is. Go about your day with confidence and joy in knowing the endless love of Jesus.


4 Responses

  1. I can’t help but think of Sir Ben Kingsley playing Ghandi on film. He did his best to bring the personality of an iconic figure to life for modern people (and did a very good job of it, imho), but it was still an interpretation at its best. Those who follow the way of Jesus (i.e. Christians) should likewise be emulators or interpreters of who Jesus is/was for our culture. Sadly, many have portrayed a very poor image of their Lord.

    “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Ghandi

    May we all strive to have the mind of Christ in us so that we may live more faithful to his likeness.

  2. I like the idea of plugging “Jesus” into 1 Cor 13. I also heard of a sobering exercise where you plug your own name in and see how it sounds.

  3. I’ve heard of that too Neil, and it is quite a wake-up call!

  4. Justin,
    I am agreeing with you entirely too much. I have viewed the verses in 1 Corinthians only slightly different.
    Because I John 4:8 & 16 say God is Love, I have understood that 1 Cor. was a description of God. Of course because of Heb. 1:3 it is also a description of Jesus
    (Heb 1:3 NIV) The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
    I also see it as goals to attempt to embody.

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