How do you think of Jesus when you picture him? Do you picture him as happy, smiling, perhaps laughing as in this picture? Of do you remember Sunday School pictures of Jesus knocking at the door – kind, but earnest? Perhaps you remember him gripped in prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane. Maybe you remember him sad and weakened on the cross. For some, the picture I have chosen for our devotional today may seem odd, perhaps even irreverent. For some it will bring a sense of relief that Jesus might be smiling when he looks at us!
My husband and I saw this picture on the Island of Santorini which is part of Greece. We had spent a lot of time in Greece by this point and had become used to seeing the iconographic image of Jesus which is always serious and perhaps a little stern. The image of Jesus is typically painted in the center of the ceiling in every Greek Orthodox church. Jesus always looks strong and serious in this pictures. He holds a Bible in one hand and his other hand is raised in blessing. That particular image is called the Pantocrator which means all-powerful. It is the Christ of the resurrection.
When we came across the image above we were not in a Greek Orthodox church. We actually had stumbled upon a Roman Catholic church which was, in Greece, highly unusual! More surprising still was to see Jesus depicted laughing and smiling. We had visited many Catholic churches on our journey and had not seen any images of Jesus smiling. Most of the time Jesus was pictured on a cross in the Catholic churches. And yet here he was at this Catholic church… all smiles. And the caption was a quote from the present papa of the Roman Catholics, Pope Francis. He writes, “We aren’t used to thinking about Jesus smiling, joyful. Jesus was full of joy, full of joy.” I agree.
One can hardly read the gospels without finding Jesus at multiple dinner parties, enjoying good food and wine and telling his famous stories. I have always imagined he was the life of the party at these events. Additionally the careful student of the Bible often discovers Jesus’ sense of humor embedded in those famous stories. In one such story he describes himself carrying home a lost sheep and calling his friends and neighbors to “rejoice” with him having found his lost sheep. And in Jesus’ last words to his disciples at the last supper, he talked to them about the love of God for them and said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
I for one, take great hope in imagining Jesus with a smile on his face and a wink in his eye. I invited you today to imagine Jesus smiling at you with joy at simply being with you. You are beloved.
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