For the introductory class, we talked about the images of Jesus that we bring with us to the course. I asked the students to write down images that they associate with Jesus. There were many interesting responses, ranging from more traditional image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd to less traditional ones, like Mother or homeless person. I also asked the students to share "what Jesus looks like" for them and then I showed them this set of contemporary images of Jesus. Note: a different set of images that runs from the first through the 21st centuries can be found here. A shorter "tour" of historical images with commentary by Stephen Cook can be found here. Interestingly, none of these sets of images included the most famous image of Jesus in mid-20th century America, the Sallman Head of Christ, nor the "Christa" sculpture by Edwina Sandys that created a controversy when it was unveiled in a church for the first time in 1984.
Then I read this passage from a recent article in Lutheran Forum by Sarah Hinlicky Wilson, entitled, "The Face of Jesus, Part II:"
". . . It is the historically specific, male, freeborn, Jewish image of Jesus that we are free to re-image, precisely because of his total assumption of humanity. Each of us is made in the Son's image, so the Son may be found in each of our faces . . .
On the one hand, a multiplicity of images of Christ can bespeak blessings upon the created goodness of skin that is white, brown, black, yellow, red, and any combination thereof, and of anatomy that is male or female, and of faces more or less beautiful. On the other hand, the images can convict the sin that assumes an easy alliance with Jesus because one is male or Jewish, as well as the sin that rejects Jesus because one is neither.
These mutiplicitous images may in fact be the only means to dismantle the idolatries of our minds and hearts by giving Jesus a face that we would never have given ourselves. We all need a Jesus who looks like us in our humanity, but perhaps even more we all need a Jesus who looks different from us to stand against us in our sin. Or to put it another way, it is not ulimately for my own sake that I need a Jesus different from myself, but for the sake of my neighbor, so that I may learn to see in my neighbor the humanity that Jesus died to save. For as you did it to one of the least of these, Jesus said, you did it to me." (Lutheran Forum 42/4 (Winter 2008: 9-10).
For fun, we ended with this clip from "Talladega Nights." (Note: just the first half of the clip pertains to the topic at hand!).