Christ's Unattractiveness

Isa. 53:2.---' He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.'

Hello Mary. Your friend D. sure brought up a lot of issues. And each one will have to be dealt with. So try to keep an open dialogue going with them. Here, I hope, is something that you can use to keep that dialogue open, or at least be able to see some of the things that are really happening.

The attractiveness of Jesus is an almost universally accepted conception. The painter's brush finds no subject more inspiring than some aspect of His grace and beauty. Our poets are quickened to high feeling when they remember His passing. Our great composers are moved to solemn music as His words sink down into their hearts.

But is this wholly true? Is Jesus so universally attractive as these testimonies would seem to prove? Is it not as true to say that to many men Jesus is not attractive at all, and that at times He, and all He stands for, are objects of dislike? The Evangelist who revealed His inner life summed up the sharpest edge of His rejection, 'He came unto his own, and his own received him not.' All the apostles bear witness that He was 'a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence.' Jesus Himself, with a shadow on His heart, described Himself as 'the stone which the builders rejected.' And His most pathetic benediction is found in the words, 'Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.' What is the deeper truth in this unattractiveness of Jesus? It is this, that to the natural heart Christ is alien, and always remains so.

So Mary, you and me, let us mark the features in Jesus which repel the natural man.

The Holiness of His Character.---Deep down in the unregenerate heart there is an antipathy to holiness. Human nature is not entirely evil, but it is tainted through and through, and, in consequence, as Paul says, 'the carnal heart is enmity against God.'

To ask some men who pass muster with the world's moralists to spend a whole day with a man, whose motives are purely unselfish, whose peace is seen in the quiet contentment of his spirit, whose conduct is touched to fine issues of thoughtfulness and courtesy, whose prayers are felt when they are not heard, is to call them to live in an atmosphere which they find difficult to breathe. They are glad to escape to lower levels of conduct and impulse. In the same way Christ's holiness always troubled men. As the intense light of His sanctity fell upon Pharisee and Sadducee and discovered the devils lurking in their hearts, as it searched and exposed even the disciples, they shrank from Him.

The Mystery of His Personality.---This reason for Christ's unattractiveness leads us into a different region of thought. There are minds which are simple and unquestioning. These are easily accessible to spiritual things and are swiftly brought into tune with the infinite. They find the mystery of the personality of Jesus full of helpfulness and delight. But there are other men who are accustomed to the clear white light of material truths. They are eager to reduce all knowledge in terms of mathematical precision. To them Christ's mysteriousness is a stumbling-block. Every great personality, lays upon the world the penalty of explaining him. Our foremost thinkers and teachers, our statesmen and men of action, and all our leaders of commanding genius are problems to their generation. But the task in regard to them all is simply one of exploration, knowledge, and analysis.

It can be said in perfect truth only of Jesus, others abide our question; but You are free. Simply because Christ goes beyond the reach and the grasp of the natural man, he is hostile to Him, and resents both His Divinity and His humanity. Today, even among those who are willing to be His disciples, there is a shrinking from the unsearchable depths in Jesus. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and His ways than our ways, and we tremble and flutter before the mystery of godliness, and with such an experience He is unattractive.

The Authority of His Claim.---Whether it be a claim which He makes for Himself, or one which He makes upon men for their obedience and their devotion, it rouses instantly a reaction in the natural heart. The unregenerate heart always treasures a pagan ideal. It has a constant hunger for pre-eminence, and exaltation, and it has an eager thirst for, and a delight in, what this life can give. The world's ideal of life was never more finely imagined and more completely attained than in the high days of Greece. Then was conceived a manhood, self-poised, self-sufficient, self-pleasing. It was a manhood developed, disciplined, and enriched until it was able to lay a strong hand on all the realms of power and enjoyment. If any man will question himself as to his day-dreams, he will find that they are precisely those of Joseph in his unschooled youth. He sees his sheaf in the field and all other men's sheaves bowing down to it. But Christ came with a claim for humiliation and submission. He made known the meaning of that claim by the course of His life. He came to be poor, homeless, outcast, to refuse the honors the world would have bestowed upon Him, to drink His Father's cup, to walk in the narrow way all through life, and to pass in through the gate of His cross. That is the claim he makes with an imperative authority. We need not wonder that men resent it and refuse it in the hostility of the natural heart.

The Message of the Cross.---Here we reach the core and kernel of the antipathy of man. It is natural for him to resent the message of the Cross. It comes with its condemnation of the life he lives, and loves, and excuses. it comes with a requirement of repentance, and that is the most searching and humbling experience the heart can know. It comes with a call to a lowliness and humility, which cuts deeply into the pride and self-sufficiency of the human heart. it comes with the inexorable condition that only as a little child can a man enter the Kingdom of God. It comes with a demand for a confession of wrong-doing, and acceptance of forgiveness, and a surrender of the whole being to Him who has redeemed him. That has always been the foolish thing to the Greek, and the stumbling-block to the Jew. Today, there are millions upon whom Christ's moral loveliness has begun to dawn. They are willing to let the other features which they resent lie in the shadow, and, as they say, become agnostic to what is too high for them. But they are not willing to accept the gospel of the Cross, and there Jesus is still unattractive.

Mary, the aesthetic appeal has never been the true power that holds the saved. D. may perhaps someday be shockingly distorted, and may awaken certain temperaments to sincerer attitudes than cynical antagonism or sentimental attraction if only they will only make some attempt at interpretation. Jesus' Cross has been taken out of His hands and smothered in flowers; it has become what He would have hated, a source of graceful ideas and agreeable emotions. Some of us may be thankful that it has not been affronted us with an attempted "likeness," but provided instead a sufficient amount of mass and form to suggest the tremendous reality of the despised Christ.

When and how is this unattractiveness overcome? It is overcome in that day when men's eyes are opened to see Christ in His redeeming grace, and their ears are able to hear His regenerating word. There comes a time when some great need, or some baffling experience, or some disheartening and shamming fall, or some discovery of a man's own true self, changes the whole angle of vision, and silences all the sounds of the world's music, and then he sees and hears Christ. Then Jesus becomes, in the language of the Old Testament poet, once heard so frequently on men;s lips, 'the altogether lovely.'

There is a day when Jesus takes every man aside. He makes a silence in our lives. Then His voice rebukes and humbles us; but as He speaks with us the light dawns on the soul, and we begin to see what those saw in Him to whom He became both their desire and their delight. Then we enter into the peace of that benediction, given to those who no longer stumble at Jesus.

I don't know if you have one of my old posts, but it is about, that even Buddha, looked forward to the coming of Christ. I will try to find it and send it.

Love in Christ, Tim