This is likely to be short and sweet. Well maybe. It somewhat relates to what happened to me when I created this portrait of Jesus several years ago, and as such is a tidbit of my own spiritual history. I often use art as a form of quieting my mind – as meditation, contemplation, and as prayer. The portrait included here was the result of one of those “prayers”. [Ask, and you shall receive!]
I spent a lot of years wandering around in New Age, New Thought, and Interfaith circles. How I got there is a long story, which I won’t go into now. Suffice it to say that prior to that, I had a powerful experience of the Holy Spirit in the late 1970’s and had surrendered my life to Christ then. Still things unfolded so that I wandered into those places.
I think maybe the upshot of it was so I could see things more clearly, and develop keener gifts of spiritual discernment. Hands on. Not from just reading about it. And learn I did.
However, within those paradigms are many ideas about Jesus Christ. Speaking from personal experience, and as a “renewed” Christian, it seemed to me that the opinions of so many in those movements ranged anywhere from outright hostility to at best the view that Jesus is just another “enlightened” or “ascended” master or great teacher or a way shower. What I couldn’t get was that, if you respect Him as even a Teacher, why the hostility toward the Bible which testifies of Him? This began to bother me.
There was enough of that going on to make me question, Do I really know who Jesus is, whether His claims are valid, His teaching, the work of His passion, and so forth? I’d always felt drawn to Him, even during the times when I was among people who clearly didn’t seem to know Him. There was His presence which never left me.
So, at some point, I was inspired to draw this portrait. It is based upon many pictures of Jesus which I placed around my drawing board that day, so that I could tap into a kind of consensus about His face. They were there for inspiration, not to copy. I wanted the portrait to be Jesus revealing Himself to me, so that I could know for sure Who this One is Whom I’d embraced all my life from a little child, up through the time of my “conversion” in the 1970’s, and Who held onto me even as I unknowingly wandered into some seriously dangerous spiritual turf.
When I completed the drawing, the words flashed into my mind, “Who do you say that I am?” And those eyes looked back from the page into mine. The question haunted me.
Little by little as I left behind these popular New Age venues, and began to seriously dive into God’s Word again and to taste its sweetness, I came to understand much more personally and profoundly a certain conversation between Jesus and His disciples, and more specifically Jesus and Peter in Matthew 16:13-20.
First Jesus asks essentially, “Who do people say that I am? And then He gets a lot more up close and personal as He asks, “But whom say ye that I am?”
Many are familiar with Peter’s famous reply, “Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God.” But is there comprehension concerning what’s really being revealed here? Jesus then explains that this revelation does not come from flesh and blood [human beings and human reason in other words] but that it was revealed to Peter by the Father in Heaven.
And then He states something strange, that many inside and outside of Christianity may not fully be aware of as to its fuller meaning, perhaps because they are not ready to receive it. He says that Simon is to be called Peter, which means “a piece of a rock.” A little rock. Jesus then indulges a little play on words, stating that it is upon this “rock” – “a mass of rock” [like bedrock or a foundation stone] – that He will build His church, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail, referring to the God inspired revelation concerning Jesus which Peter had received!
Two different words for what is translated loosely in both places as “rock”. This is where the confusion comes in. [One has to wonder, was this done covertly and deliberately?]
The “little rock” Peter [which frequently sank in various tempests] was not the foundation of the Church of Jesus Christ, but rather the “massive foundation stone” of Jesus true identity!
Jesus is not building His church on Peter, but on the One which the Father had revealed to Peter – the revelation of the identity of Jesus! Consequently also the authority of His teaching, His life, His work, and reason He was manifested – “that he might destroy the works of the devil”, per 1 John 3:8. Peter was one little stone standing on this great bedrock.
It’s popular in today’s spirituality to have “choices” about Jesus – inside the organized church and outside of it. You can take Him, leave Him, it’s up to you. So the world says.
Yet Jesus makes it very clear here concerning a very necessary consensus about His identity, that awareness of it comes supernaturally from the Father, as an almost blinding conviction, in such a way that there’s absolutely no question – “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!”
And when this Truth impacted my reality, as it never had before, all I can say from experience is that it “rocked” my world. There’s a sureness, a certainty about it. He has come and “lifts me up and lets me stand by faith on Heaven’s table land”, as the old hymn says.
I know and am persuaded about Who He is. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.