Most, I suspect, have the same definition of stereotype: preconceived, and oversimplified notion of characteristics typical of a person or group. Historically, the word stereotype seems to have meant something different prior to the definition above. Stereotype meant that someone printed something from a solid plate. The idea is like that of an antique typewriter. Whatever was printed on paper came from a typebar that had a letter or character on it. Pushing a key repeatedly would replicate the letter or character unless someone changed the typebar. Eventually, stereotype came to be known as the definition above, though, and the Jesus many of us know well, unfortunately, is a current stereotype, a typebar that has replaced the original.
The Jesus that seems to have replaced the original (I could make this article extremely lengthy) is a religious man who is wise yet misunderstood. This Jesus was pure and sweet and for the life of us, we can’t seem to figure out why anyone would have been upset by him. However, the Jesus of the Bible is known to have been as bold as Jeremiah, Elijah, John the Baptist, or one of Israel’s legendary prophets. Jesus was pure and he was sweet but he was also a revolutionary, a figure destined to change history, even the history of mankind. Thomas Paine (Common Sense) and George Washington might provide us at least a couple of weak analogies. They fought for a type of freedom, a new way of life for many. One difference is that Jesus obviously fought in a different way, but essentially for the same thing. Jesus was not a great ethics or philosophy professor that upset the Jews. They wouldn’t have bothered giving Jesus all the attention. Jesus was accepting the title of a monarch, and as monarch, he promised to cast out those who opposed his sovereign power. The Jesus we often imagine now is found in a church. The Jesus the disciples imagined would be found in a palace as a king.
That brings me to the concept of Jesus’ kingdom. Many today believe that Jesus is hidden away in heavenly realms waiting for the right time to reappear and finally establish his kingdom. Many spend their time searching the Scriptures feverishly to know when that time will be. Interestingly, the disciples had a question about the timing of Jesus’ kingdom (Acts 1:6ff). Remember how Jesus replied? “It’s not for you to know the times or seasons…” If it isn’t for the disciples to know the times or seasons of when the kingdom of God will be restored to Israel, then why do people today think Jesus would hide it somewhere in the Bible?
The Jesus of the Bible established his kingdom, his sovereign power, but our culture repeatedly chooses a different typebar from the Bible. For the most part, it seems our culture doesn’t even know what they’re trying to spell. Our culture is content just to use a typebar from the Bible. Our culture is content to see Jesus in church but not in our politics. Jesus was stereotyped in his own era and he continues to be stereotyped in ours. But…thank God we still have access to the original typebar. We just need to learn how to use it.
Categories: The Gospel Story