As you know, one of the most popular TV series sweeping the nation in recent years has been The Chosen, produced by Dallas Jenkins. As someone has said, “If you’re aiming to make a TV show about the life of Jesus, you better cast the right person for the lead role." It appears that Jenkins did. Jesus is played by Jonathan Roumie and from my unscientific poll, most people find his portrayal of Jesus to be remarkably well done. I, myself, am in that category, which surprises me, having never liked the way Jesus was portrayed in the past.

There is something deep, personal, and even perhaps threatening to me in the way Jesus is portrayed by anyone. A wrong portrayal messes with my perception of my first love, the one I have devoted my life to, the one I most want to be like, the one who claims my supreme allegiance because of who he is. That is why this podcast series seeks to shake the dust off any mistaken Sunday-school-ideas we might have about Jesus. It seeks to replace them with the most accurate picture we can from Scripture. We begin with the compelling nature of Jesus’ presence.

A generation ago, Christian writer, Peter Marshall voiced his frustration at the wrong portrayal of Jesus, “We have had enough of the emaciated Christ, the pale, anemic, namby-pamby Jesus, the ‘gentle Jesus meek and mild.’ Perhaps we have had too much of it. Let us see the Christ of the gospels, striding up and down the dusty miles of Palestine, sun-tanned, bronzed, fearless” (A Man Called Peter). Let’s look beneath the religiosity and archaic King James English to see the man Jesus was.


The true portrait is compelling. It begins with noticing Jesus’ commanding presence in many situations. Consider the case of the soldiers sent by the chief priests to arrest Jesus. John describes the scene when they arrived.

Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive…The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” (John 7:32 ff).

The temple guards were from tribe of Benjamin, known as the fiercest of all Israel’s warriors. A soldier is taught to obey orders no matter what. For a whole group of soldiers to disobey orders was unheard of. But soldiers are also used to recognizing powerful authority. To a man, Jesus was to them so commanding in his presence that they felt certain their bosses, the chief priests, were mistaken.

This same apparent commanding presence seems to manifest itself when temple guards showed up to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. We read:

Jesus went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said, “I am he,” THEY DREW BACK AND FELL TO THE GROUND. So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go” (Jn 18:1-8).

In the dead of night cowardly soldiers and religious officials came to take Jesus away. They were too afraid to do it in the daylight in the middle of Jerusalem. Jesus faces them head on. The sheer force of Jesus’ bold presence knocks the entire posse to the ground. Contrast Jesus' quiet strength to the guards. It is true that Jesus came into Jerusalem on a donkey and not a war horse, and that the upside-down virtues of his kingdom reflect humility, patience, grace, and special care for the weak and disenfranchised. Jesus was the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. But he was not weak. There was a strength that emanated from his very person. If that were not true, I doubt Peter could have followed him, and certainly hardened soldiers would not have cowered in his presence. That strength showed even more in his relentless confrontation of evil.


When my youngest son was eleven, he walked into my office, sat down on the corner chair, and said, “Jesus was a wimp,” I literally almost fell out of my chair. What?” “Well didn’t he say we were supposed to turn the other cheek and back down from a fight, and all that?” To Josh, who started for his football team at middle linebacker and called the defensive signals, anyone who backed down from a challenge wasn’t tough enough to deserve his respect. “Josh, didn’t you ever read the story of Jesus making a whip and clearing out the temple?” “Jesus never did that,” Josh argued. Now, I had two problems: my son thought Jesus was a wimp and he had been skipping Sunday school!

The sad truth is that Josh’s mental picture of an effeminate Jesus is more the rule than the exception in today’s world. Most people think that being like Jesus is being a nice guy. David Murrow, the author of Why Men Hate Going to Church, asked hundreds of people, “Which set of values better characterizes Jesus Christ and his true followers?” On the left side was a list that included competence, power, results, achievement, and success. On the right side was a list that included love, relationships, support, communication, and loving cooperation. More than 95 percent chose the right set. Murrow then reveals that he took these two lists of virtues from the book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, by John Gray. The right set is comprised of the feminine values of Venus, while the left set makes up Gray’s masculine values of Mars. In our culture Jesus is more identified with feminine virtues than masculine ones, to which Murrow responds, “Tell me, when did feminine gifts become synonymous with Christian goodness? Early Christians were known for risk taking, power, aggression, and heroic sacrifice. But somewhere in church history, somebody monkeyed with the definition of a Christian” (Why Men Hate Going to Church)! Let’s notice Jesus’ relentless willingness to confront evil.

A. Jesus confronted his hometown racism. One of the first places Jesus went, after his ministry was inaugurated through his baptism, was his hometown synagogue. It seems logical that he would launch his public ministry from his home village, a great place to start to build support—except that he would not take such support if it was mixed with racist superiority towards the Gentiles. We now know that Jesus had grown up just five miles away from a major Roman town called Sepphoris, which is known for its stonework. The Greek word translated carpenter  (TEKNON) does not mean carpenter but tradesman. It is quite likely that Joseph and his firstborn son, Jesus, were stonemasons who would have found a great deal of work outside their tiny village of 200 people in nearby Sepphoris. Whether this was the case or not, it is certain that Jesus had lots of exposure to the gentile community near his hometown. The nationalistic prejudice of his own people against those made in God’s image must have galled him. We read:

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth (Lk 4:16-22).

Here is the perfect launch to Jesus’ ministry. He claims to be the very promised Messiah of Isaiah 61. The result: “And all spoke well of him and marveled at his gracious words.If Jesus were running a political campaign, his campaign manager would have ushered him offstage at that point having achieved an awesome launch. But instead, Jesus picks a fight with his uncles and the fathers of the friends he grew up with in Nazareth, who were its elders.

And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘“Physician, heal yourself.” What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.’” And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.  But passing through their midst, he went away (4:23-30).

At least at the present time, those cliffs are just beyond the "Sabbath Day’s Journey from the Synagogue” marker, which would have prevented them from taking further steps towards the cliff. But no matter what stopped them, Jesus did not run away. One commentator suggests that Jesus stood there, probably piercing them with his eyes. What we do know is that Jesus’ commanding presence caused the crowd to part like the Red Sea!  

B. Jesus angrily confronted heartlessness. Have you ever heard a sermon, entitled, “Be Like Jesus, Get Mad?” Mark 3:1-6 would be a great text!

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

Jesus fearlessly confronted the Pharisees’ lack of compassion. It cost Jesus his life.

C. Jesus fiercely confronted the Pharisees hypocrisy. Listen to his harsh words.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves…Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, so that the outside also may be clean. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness….You snakes, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? (Excerpts from Matthew 23).

Exactly how do these verses fit in with the notion of Jesus being meek and mild or thinking Jesus’ primary character attribute was being a nice guy? As Phillip Yancey asks, ““How would telling people to be nice to one another get a man crucified? What government would execute Mister Rogers or Captain Kangaroo?” What do you think would happen in a boy’s heart, if his Sunday school used this text in a study of Jesus’ fierce confrontation of evil, entitling it: “The Dangerous Jesus?” Wouldn’t you have loved to be with Jesus when he stood up to the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees? Do you think you might have said, “Jesus you’ve got to lighten up. You’re making these guys mad.” They got their revenge. This is the group that would later execute Jesus.

Our leader stood fearlessly for truth and righteousness. He never backed down. What a privilege it must have been to know Jesus and to be invited to be his follower. It still is.


Not only was Jesus commanding in his presence and courageous in his confrontation, he was conquering in his mission. I was struck this past Palm Sunday by the truth that Jesus was orchestrating every aspect of the actions of his enemies. When he learned of his friend Lazarus’ death, it is true that he probably waited so that when he arrived it was certain that Lazarus was dead. But he was also extremely public in this miracle—and John’s description makes clear why. Let’s examine his account of Lazarus’ resurrection.

And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation…. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death (John 11:41 ff).

Although Jesus leaves to hide in Ephraim, he then intentionally returns to Bethany six days before Passover to celebrate a meal with Lazarus. John observes, When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there (with Lazarus in Bethany), they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus (12:9-11). John tells us that the next day the ecstatic crowds walking with Jesus in his triumphal entry had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead and they continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

Jesus knew that the curse for Adam’s sinful rebellion brought upon Adam’s race could only be overthrown by first being the sin offering for our atonement on the cross. Far from being the victim of the chief priests and Pharisees, he played them like a fiddle! They didn’t stand a chance against him.

Before Jesus set his face like flint for Jerusalem, while at Caesarea-Phillipi near the very location where the false God Pan’s gates to hell were claimed to be, Jesus asked Peter who he thought Jesus was. When Peter answered, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus then said, You are Peter, and on this rock (his confession) I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matt 16:18). As we know, for two thousand years Jesus has been building his church and the gates of evil have not been able to withstand the conquest. Matthew’s story of Jesus’ life had ended with his words, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” One author writes:

“Amazing isn’t it, that we are still talking about Jesus? After two thousand years people meet in almost every conceivable spot on earth to worship Jesus Christ. Books dot our libraries; art adorns our galleries; and reams of music are all about Him. Like a majestic mountain-peak towering over a landscape, the unconquerable Christ stands today. Forces have been arrayed against Him. Foes have encountered Him. But He remains unvanquished, undefeated, unconquerable.”  (H. S. Vigeveno, Jesus the Revolutionary).

He is a master worthy of our best.


For Further Prayerful Thought:

  1. As you read about the reactions of the temple guards sent to arrest Jesus, on two different occasions, what words would you use to describe their response to him?
  2. What difference does Jesus’ courageous willingness to confront evil make in your relationship with him?
  3. What do you think of the statement: Our God is so morally pure that he can even turn his enemies’ evil into good.