by Tad Lindley
I am so sick of seeing these limp-wristed pantywaist Jesus paintings and drawings. Jesus was buff. Instead, a lot of artists have presented an effeminate Jesus. Far from the rough, tanned hands of a carpenter, they portray a Jesus who looks as if he has been hanging around a dark house giving his slender fingers a manicure. Instead of a traditional Jewish dreadlock (where only the hair above the sideburn is long and uncut), they offer us a Jesus who looks like he came out of the dope house, long hair hanging at shameful lengths (see I Corinthians 11:14).
It is time for artists and movie makers to face the fact: Jesus could work many twenty-first century men into the ground.
Evidence from the missing years
Mary and Joseph found Jesus visiting the rabbis in the temple when he was twelve years old. From that time until he began his public ministry at about the age of 30, scripture is silent. Some refer to this time as “the missing years”. We can infer several things about this period of time. One of them is this: Jesus would have trained as a carpenter in his step-father’s carpentry shop. Mark 6:3 tells us that Jesus was a carpenter. This was before sawmills and lumber yards. Carpenters could not simply go out to the lumber yard and buy 2 X 4’s. Everything they used had to be either hewn or sawn by hand. His physical strength must have been tremendous compared with the men of today.
You try fasting for forty days
The gospel accounts of the life of Jesus Christ reveal a man who was a powerhouse. Jesus’ comes onto the scene at one of John the Baptist’s revival meetings. There he is baptized to fulfill all righteousness. When he comes out of the water he heads into the wilderness. There he goes on a forty day fast (Matthew 4). At the end of forty days of fasting (this was not Pharisee style fasting during the day and eating at night, he did not eat anything for forty days), Jesus took the devil face on and won.
And you thought you were a nukalpiaq
Jesus brought home the brisket. We can get excited when we bring in a boatload of fish or birds. What man among us doesn’t feel a tinge of pride when he pulls into town or the village with a sled load of meat? Try feeding 4,000 people with your own hands. Jesus did it (Matthew 15:32-39). In Matthew 14, he broke bread with his hands until 5,000 people had eaten (13-21). These are not the hands of a sissy.
Jesus broke up the Jerusalem stock exchange
Jews traveling from far away to sacrifice at the temple were permitted to bring money to Jerusalem and purchase an animal for sacrifice instead of trying to bring a lamb or a dove all that distance. Businessmen found that there was much money to be made in selling livestock to be sacrificed. Often they sold imperfect animals for sacrifice. This was an abomination to God. They had even begun to set up a market in the temple. On at least one occasion Jesus went into the temple and turned over the tables and threw the money changers out (Matthew 21, Mark 11, John 2). John adds the details that he poured out their money and used a whip to drive them. This is not the work of a slump shouldered man with muscles atrophied from surfing the internet. Jesus was buff.
Beaten beyond recognition
When Jesus was arrested he was beaten. The prophet Isaiah described the scene before it ever happened: I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting (50:6). The spit of men ran down Jesus’ face, and mingled with his blood where they had torn out the hair of his beard. Their fists rained down upon him. The whip of the Roman soldier tore through Jesus’ rib and back muscles. The blood would have flowed freely down his body onto the ground. By modern standards we would say, “He was beaten beyond recognition.”
An average man would have gone into shock and died simply from these preliminaries to Calvary. And yet Jesus in his exceptional physical strength was able to walk up the hill of Golgotha (there is no place in the Bible where he stumbled or fell), permit them to drive spikes through his hands and feet, and then live through six hours of the cruelest torture. Throughout his ordeal he never once struck back or spoke out in anger, instead as he gasped for air on the cross of Calvary he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Perhaps buff is too weak of a word for Jesus. He was the strongest man that ever lived.
Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.