Tuesday, October 25, 2016

What if Jesus Was Short?

This Sunday's lectionary reading for the Gospel is Luke 19:1-10 and is the story of Zacchaeus.  Within this story, Zacchaeus is a tax collector who is already on the outside of polite society from his profession.  He was trying to see Jesus but couldn't because of the crowd surrounding Jesus and also "because he was short in stature" (verse 3).  Then he climbs a sycamore tree and they have a conversation when Jesus passes by.

But what if Jesus was the one "short in stature"?  The crowds surrounding a shorter man would make it just as hard to see him.

Does this idea make you uncomfortable?

This face of Jesus was the result of the forensic science of
Richard Neave.  It is an average appearance of men
during the time and region of Jesus.  It also goes
against the grain of most of the paintings we see today.
I remember first discussing this in seminary.  We've so long attributed this to Zacchaeus that it becomes almost impossible to question.  After all, those who grew up in the church likely sang "Zacchaeus was a wee little man" at some point in childhood, permanently cementing his height in our minds.

We often unconsciously designate height with leadership.  If you are shorter, you must command a greater charisma in order to lead others.  This is not fair but seems to be the way human beings operate.

If we are uncomfortable with a short Jesus, what does that say about us?  If we look at the average height of people in Galilee during that period of time, an average man would have been a couple of inches above five feet.  So regardless of which person the adjective describes, Jesus would still be short by today's averages.

If this makes us question our assumptions (or our difficulties overcoming them) in what we imagine Jesus to have looked like, this may help us understand this particular passage.  After all, he sees something in Zacchaeus that others do not.  This often translates personally to the idea that Jesus understands us more fully and can see our potential.

We can find hope in this and strive to be more than we currently are from a spiritual, moral and ethical standpoint.  But we can also seek to look at others with this optimistic gaze of Jesus.  Can we see potential within each person - even those we would normally write off?

I'm looking forward to preaching on this text.  If you are available on Sunday morning, I hope you'll join us at First United Methodist Church of Edmond at 8:30 and 11:00 am in the sanctuary or at 10:50 am in Wesley Hall!

In Christ,


Photo from an article of Popular Mechanics magazine from December 2002. 

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