Self Portraits of God Lesson 6
Lesson 6: Tracings in His Choices- the Character of Jesus
The evening news is reporting that, according to a researcher from Great Britain, criminals can be identified by the way they walk. They say a careful study of recorded security tapes is sufficient for such an identification.
Webster has several definitions for the concept character; among them are a definition telling us that character is the main or essential nature; especially those qualities which are strongly marked and which serve to distinguish a person’s usual qualities or traits.
Inside This Lesson:
- General Introduction
- Tracings- numbers
| 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 |
- The Character Self-portrait
- Tracings in His Choices as Mirrors
According to the news story just referred to, walking patterns reveal the main intents of the walking-one being observed; they serve to identify a person’s usual qualities or traits. If this is true, according to Webster’s definitions walking patterns serve to identify the character of the one being observed.
Again one reads that actions repeated become habits, and that habits taken together make up character.
In this lesson the character of Jesus, that which was His usual qualities or traits, is that which we are going to be seeking to identify.
To identify those qualities which were the distinguishing qualities of Jesus, which were the revealers of what He was like, we will look at word pictures recording Jesus interacting with those people who came into His daily life in the records of His life in the Bible.
Before we begin that study though, because there is probably a never-ending list of qualities which one can think of, and which the imagination can construe as being participants in the daily life of Jesus as He encounters His world, for interest sake we will assemble a list, without supporting evidence, of potential qualities that might appear in our study, based on a general knowledge of the life of Jesus. This list will function in our study as our hypothesis. It is, at this point, our belief that Jesus was like this:
Our Hypothetical Picture of Jesus
- Manifested respect for age
- Shunned needless controversy
- Had a sweetness of disposition
- Tender forbearance training disciples
- Wasted not even a morsel of bread
- Defeated Satan on every point
- Allowed Himself to be guided step by step by the Father’s will
- Did faithfully His home duties
- Accepted hospitality of all classes; dined comfortably with all classes, including the noble, the poor, and the ostracized
- Accepted invitations to feasts
- Could willingly descend to the level of the young
- Acted as if they were family, when with people like the Samaritans
- Controlled the table talk
- Was willing to repeat His lessons
- Never resorted to noisy disputing
- Spoke with authority
- Drew the attention of the best educated and the deepest thinkers
- Could always vary His message to meet the audience
- Saw potential in every person; (most important discourses were to the one person audience)
- Reproved with severity sometimes
- Spoke words of comfort and hope to mothers
- Nothing could ruffle His patience- atmosphere of peace surrounded Him among turbulence of angry enemies
- Won children’s love
- Never dejected by censure
- Never urged His presence on anyone
Now to our study- Tracings in His Choices- the Character of Jesus
Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John
(though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples),
He left Judea and departed again, to Galilee.
But He needed to go through Samaria.
So He came to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.
Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “give me a drink.”
For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.
Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?”
For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.
Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, “give me a drink,” you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water?
Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”
Jesus answered and said to her, “who ever drinks of this water will thirst again, but who ever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”
Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”
The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “you have well said, I have no husband, for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.
Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.
You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.
But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming, (who is called Christ). When He comes, He will tell us all things.”
Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”
Verse 27 adds,
And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?”
There is often that in Scripture which surprises us for many reasons, connected to the issues of sin and its destruction from our lives, and such surprises are something we have come to expect, but this thought-question by the disciples is not something the reader of the Bible expects! It is not anticipated by any of the stories in the Bible appearing up to this time, or by any of the principles composing the teachings of the plan of salvation!
This implied question, “What are you doing talking with a woman?” comes to the Bible student as a complete surprise. Perhaps the reason for the great element of surprise to the Bible reader is because the story, or word picture, of this hour in Jesus day, as it appears in the King James Version, reads, “and upon this came His disciples, and marveled that He talked with the woman”.
But in the New King James Version, which we are using, the implied question is, “why are you talking with a woman?” (Incidentally, this form of the implied question is the correct formula, based on the Greek manuscript.)
The question is fascinating because it opens up to us part of the world of the disciples; those who Jesus was training to be His replacements for the work of establishing the Kingdom of God on Earth, when He was no longer here to do that work Himself.
So, why was Jesus talking to “a woman?”
To seek to find the answer to this question we will look at a few verses which appear in the Biblical story of creation, regarding the origin of woman.
Genesis 1:26, 27.
Then God said, let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the Earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the Earth.
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Genesis 5:1, 2.
In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God.
He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them mankind in the day they were created.
So? Why was Jesus talking to a woman? Because she was created in the image of God.
The character Self-portrait
appearing in this story is about Jesus willingness to share what He is; the Original, by whom the copy was made.
The character quality which shows through this encounter is reflected from the regard Jesus is here showing for that which He has made, even after it has been badly damaged by an enemy.
This portrait is of affection and generosity.
The character of woman is a partial portrait of the character of Jesus. (Adam is the other half.) The original couple were male and female- both being in the image of God. The differences between them being based in the fact that they were made to reflect different qualities from the character of God; but whereas God has no defective or second class character qualities, we conclude that though the man and the woman are different, the difference is not indicative of inferiority on the part of either one; different but equal at their creation, seems to be the correct formulation.
So why was Jesus talking to a woman? Because she was one of His special created works. The man and the woman were the crowning work of the creation week.
(For the full story of the creation, including the creation of the man and the woman, see Genesis, chapters 1, 2.)
Tracing # 2
Jesus is traveling again; His days are full. He is again going through the territory which belongs to the Samaritans- a mixed race of people who were relatives to the Jews. These families did not get along.
Now it came to pass…that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before his face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him.
But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.
And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”
But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “ you do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”
And they went to another village.
In this record of a family squabble, a very large family squabble, we see that there is no force used by Jesus in the accomplishment of His mission. His sending messengers to announce to this village His impending arrival indicated His willingness to be friends with these relatives. But when they indicated their desire to not have Him in their village, He went, peaceably, to another village- and without being mad!
We know this because when Jesus sent the seventy disciples out to work for the people, with the commission to heal the sick, and say to them, the kingdom of God has come near to you, He told them to visit, first of all, the cities of Samaria, even though He had but shortly before been repulsed by a Samaritan village. (See Luke 10:1-12).
The character Self-portrait
is of wisdom; the wisdom of the maker of all and the lover of all. The One who loves enough to let the little ones in the knowledge of what He is like, disagree with Him until they have opportunity to learn what it is that He hopes for them.
One can hear Him again saying, do unto others according to your superior knowledge that which you would want them to do to you if they knew what you know.
Later Jesus told a parable involving several people, which has turned out to be one of His most famous, in which He commended a Samaritan as being the example of what God’s people are like, when those in the parable to whom the Samaritan was being compared, were Jewish high churchmen.
This character Self-portrait
is of appreciation.
Another time Jesus encountered ten lepers who requested healing. He told them to go and show themselves to the priest- all healed lepers had to be pronounced clean by the priest, as we saw in an earlier study; but Jesus had not done anything for the lepers!
Like the people at the wedding in the city of Cana, who took water to the host of the ceremonies so he could judge it’s quality as wine, the lepers did what Jesus had told them to do, and left Jesus’ presence to go see the priest so he could pronounce them clean- inspite of the fact that they were still lepers! There were nine Jews and one Samaritan.
On their way to the priest the ten lepers were healed. The nine Jews went on to see the priest; the one Samaritan turned around and went back to find Jesus and thank Him.
Jesus told the people about this event, recording the great joy of the healed Samaritan leper.
The only motive for this healing that comes down to us is in fact the joy of the Samaritan for what Jesus had done for Him.
This record of Joy, being caused by the act of Jesus, leads us to
Another character Self-portrait of Jesus
This picture is hiding in the revelation that He will exercise divine power for no more reason than to make one of His children happy.
The portrait here is of cheerfulness and happiness.
Another Story. Tracing #3
(These stories are not in any chronological order.) John 7:53-8:11.
Jesus is again back in Jerusalem. The Leaders bring- dragging alone behind them- a woman who they have caught in the act of adultery; of course the Bible says that the husband is the one who is to charge her, but in this case it is the church leaders.
And everyone went to his own house, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.
Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery, and when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.
Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”
This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.
So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “he who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”
And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.
Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”
She said, “no one, Lord.”
And Jesus said to her, “neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
The woman paid Jesus nothing before He gave His decision in her case; she was forgiven for free. “Neither do I condemn you.”
But He also said, “Go and sin no more”, which means that the present free forgiveness was based on the condition of future obedience. To be able to live a life of obedience would keep her in touch with the grace of God.
Jesus has great compassion and love for the children He has given life. He has great compassion and love for His erring children, but the love for His children and the desire for their happiness that called forth the first revelation of the laws by which their system was designed to live forever, is still His love for them; the laws by which their system was designed to live forever are unchanged.
The character of the law giver, the revelation of those principles by which they are able to function forever, is here declared to be unchanged.
The character Self-portrait is of longing desire; the desire to have more children, a larger family; the desire to have those made by Him live with Him forever- to be wherever He is.
This parental picture is of calmness coupled to firmness- the firmness of the lily on the lake.
The character of Jesus; tracings in His choices-
While waiting for a response from a university to some school work I had submitted to them for their approval, I got a job driving a logging truck for some people who were buying some trees my Mom was selling.
My job included loading the truck which I was supposed to then drive into town to a large wood yard where the truck would be unloaded by some one from the crew who lived at or near the wood yard.
Because of the close proximity of the wood yard to the places where the employees lived, it was common for some of their pets to show up at the work site from time to time.
One of the employees had a dog who was a mix of general dog and coyote, who was quite wild and seemed to be always hungry. Because of the lack of time to eat regular meals I carried a lunch with me- generally some sandwiches. From time to time I would save some food and give it to the always-hungry dog. She never came close enough that I could touch her, but we did seem to become used to one another. The employees warned me to be always on the alert when I was out of my truck because she, they said, would bite people.
Another employee had a small black dog; just ordinary dog.
This ordinary small black dog liked to sneak up behind me, when I was out of the truck removing the chains which held the load onto the truck, and try to bite my heels. My shoes had low tops so I had to always be on the watch to make sure I was not bitten, by either dog.
One day I drove into the wood yard and looked for the two dogs. The coyote dog was across the yard busy sniffing in a pile of wood, while the small black dog was no where to be seen.
I climbed out of the truck and started to remove the chains holding the load onto the truck, when the coyote dog suddenly turned toward the truck and started to charge the place where I was standing. At first she did not worry me much, as she was quite a distance away, but her charge did not slow at all as she was approaching the spot where I was standing. I began to wonder if this was the day that I was going to be attacked quite fiercely by what was apparently a very angry dog. When she got to where I was standing, with her fangs bared, she suddenly swerved around me and attacked the small black dog which had sneaked up behind me without me seeing it.
She slashed at the little black dog and swerved away and then attacked the little dog again in the same manner until she had driven the small black dog some distance from where I was standing.
I suppose it would be fair to say that I gave the hungry dog some of my lunch because she was apparently always hungry, but it was also because I hoped that we might become friends. Up to the day she kept me from being bitten, it did not seem that my plan to become friends had worked.
Unbeknown to me, she was watching over me.
Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus is who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead.
And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a Pharisee, they made Him a supper; and Martha served at the supper, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him.
Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of Spikenard, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said,
Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii, and given to the poor?
This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.
But Jesus said, let her alone; Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for me. She has come before hand to anoint My body for burial.
Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.
For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.
Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, this man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.
And Jesus answered and said to him, Simon, I have something to say to you. So he said, teacher, say it.
There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.
And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell me, therefore, which of them will love him more?
Simon answered and said, I suppose the one whom he forgave more. And he said to him, You have rightly judged.
Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head.
You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in.
You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil.
Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.
Then He said to her, your sins are forgiven.
And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, who is this who even forgives sins?
Then He said to the woman, your faith has saved you. Go in peace.
Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you? And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him.
( For this story see Matthew 26:6-16; Mark 14:3-11; Luke 7:36-50; John 12:1-8.)
Mary was being of service to Jesus, never knowing that He was watching over her; never recognizing that He was the One forgiving her sins.
The character Self-portrait
which is shining from this story is of loving care- the loving care of the One who, often unrecognized, is our Guardian.
Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.
Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich.
And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature.
So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way.
And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”
So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully.
But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”
Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”
And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
“I give half of my goods to the poor; and I restore fourfold.”
There is no mention in this story of Zacchaeus knowing what Jesus looked like before Jesus stopped under the tree. Neither is there a mention of him having been accused by man, except that he was a tax collector!
The point of these comments is of course to note that before Zacchaeus was accused he had confessed his sin, and had begun to make restitution.
The implied is that he had encountered the influence of the Holy Spirit. Under its influence he had changed his life-style to one that left his conscience free.
Jesus reaction to a Jewish tax collector who wanted very much to see Him was to go to his home for a visit. He also said, “today salvation has come to this house.”
The character Self-portrait
is a picture of gentleness toward that which is defective. This character tracing is of Mercy; the One bringing salvation to those who should not have been lost.
Zacchaeus was a Jew. “Salvation is of the Jews”, we saw Jesus saying in an earlier story (John 4:22).
As such this character portrait is also of patient forgiveness; that patient forgiveness which responds to acts of right-doing in people’s lives, when those acts are brought about by the influence of the Holy Spirit.
When my daughter was little we would say “I love you” to her, and she would repeat the same words back to us- but the saying of the words was without inflection. There was no understanding of the meaning of those words in her mind.
One day, when we had been traveling far from home in a city which was so full of tourists that one could not walk on the sidewalk, my wife and I needed for my wife to go into a store and make a purchase.
We agreed that I would let her out and continue driving through the crowds until I had circled the block (there were no parking spaces); that if she was there I would pick her up without parking, if she had not yet come out of the store I would again circle the block until she was waiting on the side of the street, in the crowd.
When my wife got out of the car she immediately disappeared into the tight crowd of people. Our daughter seemed to realize that my wife was free- she was out of our reach. Our daughter looked at me and said, “do you think she will come back?”
“Oh yes,” I said. “We have a string tied on her.” My daughter was quite puzzled; she understood the concept for we often played with her toys by pulling them with a string around the house. “She loves us,” I explained.
I circled the block, surrounded by many people walking, something like trying to drive through a parade. The first two times around the block my daughter was quite concerned when we arrived at the pick-up area and my wife was not there. As we approached the pick-up area the third time around the block my wife suddenly stepped out of the thick crowd right next to our car; our daughter instantly had the greatest smile; not only had her mother come back, but she suddenly understood, “I love you.”
It seemed to us that our daughter always trusted us after that experience. Her trust was to us always a source of Joy. To be trusted was to be loved. Love, trust and joy, are apparently chained together. Love brings the others. Perhaps this is why Paul wrote of the gifts of the Spirit, and ended with saying, “the greatest of these is love.”
So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee, where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum.
When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him, and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.
Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.”
The nobleman said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies!”
Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.” So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way.
And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, “Your son lives!”
Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.”
So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives.” And he himself believed, and his whole household.
(John 4:46 – 53).
As we read the accounts of the works of Jesus on behalf of the people, one senses the joy He found in the ability He had to be of help; in the Joy that came back to Him from the joy His acts and teachings awakened in the lives of those who passed through His life.
Not only was He doing the work of the Father- giving a revelation of what the Father is like, but He was also giving a successful revelation of what the devil is like- the Devil possessing people and throwing them into the fire and making them live like mad men, and Jesus, God’s representative, setting them free to live lives of usefulness, reflecting the goodness of God to them, to the community and to their families.
Happy as these accounts are, there seems to be a greater source of Joy to Jesus- that joy coming to Him when He saw people trusting the goodness of God; believing in His thoughts of peace toward them. For Jesus, to be trusted was to be understood, and to be understood was to be loved. Joy, Peace and trust, are wonderful qualities, but in Jesus’ life, as in the gifts of the Spirit list, the greatest of these is love.
The character Self-portrait
is about the joy which comes from giving that which returns trust- the base for love, because God is love.
This picture is of kindness.
Levi-Matthew; a Publican
(a Tax collector- a Jew collecting taxes for the ruling Romans- dearly hated! by all Jews.)
After these things He (Jesus, a Jew) went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he left all, rose up, and followed Him.
Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house.
Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him.
And when the Pharisees saw it they complained, and said to His disciples,
“Why does your Teacher eat and drink with tax collector’s and sinners?”
When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
( For this story see Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27-32.)
Jesus is here seen sitting as an honored guest at the table of the Publican, showing that He recognized the dignity of humanity.
The character Self-portrait
is of that which appealed to the heart of Jesus; a soul thirsting for the water of life.
The picture here is of compassion- the beauty of spirit.
Our last tracing
The days of Jesus teaching the disciples and people as He walks through the lands of the middle east are coming to an end; the works of gentleness as He heals the sick, and forgives the sins of the guilty end as surprisingly as they began:
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying,
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
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 things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them.
Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven,
And sat down at the right hand of God.
And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the work through the accompanying signs.
(See Matthew 28:19-20:Mark 16:19-20; and Luke 24:50-53.)
The Character Self-Portrait
is of partnership, a picture in motion, an Adult holding the hand of a child, two working together; the portrait of perseverance and energy.
Tracings in His Choices as Mirrors
When one, male or female, stands in front of one of the mirrors which is the character tracings of Jesus, one sees reflected a being composed of many parts, all of which have their origin in Him-the Bringer of Sunshine.