Sunday 5 July 2020
Joint Bethany United/Fenwick United /Grace United Streamed Service
Minister: Rev. Dianne Everitt, M.A., M.Div.
Director of Music: Mr. William Outred 1

Zechariah 9: 9 – 12
Matthew 11: 16-19, 25, 28-30
Psalm 45
Images of Jesus
In writing a Sermon each week (which actually takes me about a month, but I only have a
week, so each one is at best an approximation, my best offering to you of what God might be
saying to us so that you might take it and reflect on it and layer your own perceptions on to it
making it even richer) – I try to listen for what God gives us in the particular readings at this
particular time and relay that to you. Because I
do believe that God works in that way,
revealing love and hope to us in bits and pieces of scripture and life. Today, I want to draw
your attention to an array of motifs used to describe a Messiah, and I will augment those motifs
with some visuals to help a picture emerge of this person Jesus of Nazareth, through whom we
believe God expressed himself as fully divine and fully human. As we consider some images of
a Messiah, and then Jesus in the Christian part of the Bible, we’ll look at how this helps us.
The Hebrew Bible is full of ideas and prophecies of what the Messiah would do and be.
The passage from Zechariah today (Slide 1 – page of Zechariah 9 at J. Paul Getty Museum, Los
Angeles, CA. c. 1280-90 from Bologna, Italy. Tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink on
parchment) which Mary read, heralds with fanfare what a new
kind of king the Messiah would
be – there is big ceremonial language foretelling a peacemaker Messiah, who will “command
peace to the nations” who will “cut off the war horse and chariot from Israel and Jerusalem” and
who will “cut off the battle bow” (stop war) from the ironic vantage point of humility on a

lowly and humble donkey foal as opposed to a warhorse; this Messiah will remind God’s
people of their covenant with Him, found in the Torah in Deuteronomy and elsewhere , the
covenant being that I will be your God and you will be my people and you shall love the Lord
God with all your heart and soul and might and love your neighbour as yourself. Our Psalm
also welcomes one who will bring justice.
It was not the custom of the Israelite people to represent in pictures their Messiah,
steering clear of the chance of making or worshipping any idols, but that slowly started to
change after Jesus. (Slide 2 – Alexamenos Graffito, 1
st Century, Palatine Hill Museum, Rome;
Traditional portrait of Jesus of Nazareth). As outlined in a recent article
about the possible
appearance of Jesus
, it seems that much of what we know about Jesus’ looks is a product of
artistic convention
. Scripture does not give us a description of Jesus, only telling us that he was
bigger than a baby and smaller than the temple, since he fit inside it. The absence of remarks
about the appearance of Jesus of Nazareth indicates that there was likely nothing
about the way he looked from any other man of his time from that area of the world. What you
see here are two very different images that are a far cry from each other – one is a traditional
representation of Jesus which anyone would recognize as Jesus as it has become the normative
portrayal of him but chances are, Jesus did not look like this of course. The other is a first
century drawing on plaster showing someone looking at a donkey-headed man on a cross. It
was found in Rome. This strange little drawing’s purpose is to mock anyone worshipping this
crucified Messiah because in the 1st century, the relatively small group of followers of Jesus
were looked on with suspicion because how could a Messiah, who just travelled around on foot
and who didn’t act like a Messiah, have been crucified as a common criminal. The drawing

makes fun of “Alexandros,” a Christian, by implying that he worshiped a “donkey-headed” God
as the inscription reads: “Alexandro worshiping his god.”
Given what we read in Matthew’s gospel today, it’s not that hard to understand what a
tough sell it might have been that this Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, as he didn’t act and
speak in expected ways. One starts to think that no wonder the Catholics used to have all
Services in Latin, the words of Jesus are hard to understand sometimes. There are paradoxes
and insults but also compassion. For example, Jesus starts our Matthew readings with an
illustration of how “this generation” is never satisfied: one complains to the other and the other
back: “we played the flute for you and you did not dance; we wailed and you did not mourn.”
Essentially, you are never satisfied. Then Jesus uses the example of John the Baptist suggesting
that you are not even satisfied with great prophets – you demonize the one for not eating or
drinking enough, the other for doing too much of each! Then Jesus slips in: “yet wisdom is
vindicated by her deeds”, and so Jesus associates himself here with Wisdom (always considered
female). Remember, the Zechariah reading started off calling out “Daughter Zion! Daughter
Jerusalem!, female references described by scholars as terms of endearment! And so between
the two readings we are reminded of the importance of female wisdom and the positive female
attributes found in the Bible. Then Jesus thanks God that intelligent people have not had the
kingdom revealed to them because they are not ready to hear and don’t even recognize prophets
in their midst and can only see their
own wisdom as opposed to looking for God’s. Keeping all
that in mind: the Messiah peacemaker, the teacher, the leader, the Messiah who chews people
out and reveals their hypocrisy, the Messiah who identifies himself with the female Wisdom –
there are a lot of attributes there. But from the earliest images onward, other aspects of Jesus

are also revealed: “Healing of the Paralytic”, 3rd century. This painting, which is believed to
be the oldest painting of Jesus in the world, was found on the wall of the baptistry in the earliest
known house church at Dura-Europas in Syria; “The Good Shepherd”, 3
rd century found on the
wall of the St. Callisto (Callixtus) catacomb (underground cemetery) in Rome. Pope Calixtus I
Bishop of Rome, was martyred for his Christian faith around 222; Christ Pantokrator, 6
th or 7th
century. The Greek word
Pantokrator means “he who has authority over everything.”
Byzantine artists showed Christ in a gesture of blessing. The heavy use of gold such in the
large nimbus indicate an emphasis on his divinity at this time as opposed to his humanity. This
image is the oldest known example of “Christ Pantokrator”. It is painted on wood and dates to
6th or 7th century. It is found at the Monastery of St. Catherine in Egypt; Burlington House
Cartoon, Madonna, Child, and St. Anne (mother of Mary) (but should be St. Elizabeth, who is
the mother of John the Baptist), Leonardo da Vinci, 1500-1501. Now in National Gallery,
London; Isenheim Altarpiece Matthias Grunevald, 1512 – 1516. It was painted for
the Monastery of St. Anthony in Isenheim, Germany).
And so, by this point of the Sermon, which is focussing on the doctrine of Christology,
doctrine being the teachings of the church, Christology being the branch of theology that deals
with Jesus Christ, we are beginning to see the many images we have of Jesus. The following
images extend even past what we have seen here to other non-traditional images which I hope
you’ll agree I think also speak to who God is and therefore who Jesus Christ is. (Slides of
“Homeless Jesus” by Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz, 2013; “Laughing Jesus” by
Canadian Artist Willis Wheatley, 1974; “Jesus” by British Anatomical Forensic Artist and

Retired Professor Richard Neave, 2002). Each of these images responds to a need on the part
of communities to find connections with Jesus of Nazareth and to mine the depths of scripture
to discover hitherto unnoticed attributes. Each image adds to our understanding of Jesus, of
God, of how the Holy Spirit aids us to discover and rediscover Jesus. Essentially, Jesus Christ
calls us to humility, to be receptive to God’s mystery as God is always doing something new,
and to believe in the one whom God sent.
And so, where do we go with all this? (Slide of Children/Jesus). Let’s not forget the
part in the Matthew passage where Jesus says: “Come to me, all you that are weary and heavyladen, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle
and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” To use modern lingo, let’s unpack
that a bit, because this is where the rubber hits the road, right? How can these words help us
today? Give me something I can use! Well, if I were to run into Jesus I would say, Jesus, this
is awkward: you have been seen through the ages as a healer, as a shepherd, as an authority, as
human, as divine, as one who suffers, as homeless, as a Superstar, as one who blesses which is
great! Thank you! But one who …carries my burdens?? You lived in the first century, and I
live in the 21
st century. It’s different, it’s stressful, we’ve been in a pandemic, there’s a lot of
anxiety, there are lots of people sick in various ways – emotionally, physically, and dealing with
different treatments, and although there are so many good people, there seems to be less
empathy, less real compassion, less simplicity, less downtime, less meaningful employment,
less security, more worry. For example, have you read a cell-phone contract? Have you waited
for the cable guy? Have you tried to call a government office? Have you tried to navigate a
government website?
My question is never one of the FAQs! Have you tried to find a family
doctor? How can you help? If you want to carry our burdens, how do we give them to you?
How do we say to someone in treatment, or even in a life or death struggle trying to manage
appointments and tests and tests that have to be done before this appointment and taken to this
or that appointment and take all this medication – how do we say “Let Jesus carry your
burdens?” What would you say, Jesus? I think Jesus would say: first of all, I hear you and I am
there with you – that’s what my life was about – it was about ultimate empathy, maximum
empathy from God, and showing you that your suffering is my suffering – I feel it and share it.
Then, Jesus would say: “Talk to me. Tell me everything, I’ve got
all day. Share your burden
with me in prayer, in thought, in conversation, in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening,
watching tv, drifting off to sleep. Lift up prayers to me for
yourself and for all the people with
whom you entrust your care and your life. And Trust in God’s goodness, that all will be within
God’s mercy. Feel in your bones and in your body that your prayers are being heard and that
your burden is being lifted.” And I would say, thank you Jesus for your answer – I will try that.
I will remember the great hymn: “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus….. In the same way that it is
said, “There is nowhere that we can be where we can say, “All of God is here”, Jesus transcends
all our attempts to capture his essence and yet is completely accessible to us. Some of his
words catch us off guard by their forthrightness and austerity; other times we fall into his words
which are so much of what we need to hear. Our closing hymn in a bit is a musically beautiful
piece, and characterizes Jesus in a very traditional way, purer, brighter, fairer, ruler of Nature; it
is not by any means a comprehensive portrait, but it is another ideal partial portrait and one
which gives us peace. In the end, we are
all are looking for the peace of Jesus Christ, and
Jesus is saying, “Well, you complain a lot, and don’t recognize prophets, and you think you

might not need God or Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit that you can do it all by yourself, but I
love you – you are all my children,
all need help, and that’s why I’m doing here: “Come to me
all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.” Talk to me – I’ve got all day.
May we ponder with thanks these thoughts from God. Amen.
[Silent Reflection]
Christ, as a light
illumine and guide me.
Christ, as a shield
overshadow me.
Christ under me;
Christ over me;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;
in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Christ as a light;
Christ as a shield;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you,
wherever He may send you.
May He guide you through the wilderness,
protect you through the storm.
May He bring you home rejoicing
at the wonders He has shown you.
May He bring you home rejoicing
once again into our doors.

Communion: We will next share the Sacrament of Communion (Online) on Sunday 26 July 2020. On-line Communion is absolutely
permissible by the United Church of Canada providing that it is done in ‘real time’ (as opposed to in a recorded Service). What you need to
do for such a Service is have some bread and liquid (water, juice, wine) ready so that you may receive the Sacrament. It is a good