Undressing Jesus


Using an inflammatory heading simply for shock-value is manipulative journalism. So I don’t want to do that here. But I do want to make an important point in a provocative way.


Here’s my point:

Before we can be an authentic follower of Jesus we first need to rediscover him. And to do so, we have to start undressing him.

I’m not trying to be crude or sacrilegious, but I would suggest that over the centuries we’ve dressed Jesus in so much cultural and religious garb that who he really is, is almost unrecognizable – both to those of us who say we are following him and certainly to those who are on the outside watching as we represent him. We need to disrobe Jesus, so we can once again find and follow him, and not simply some caricature we’ve created of him.   

Here are a few items that need to be removed    

The magic genie.  Over the last several decades we’ve turned Jesus into our own magic genie, promising that if we rub him just right, not only will we have a blessed life in heaven one day, but while we wait to get there, we can live a blessed life now and just call it the American dream. Jesus isn’t opposed to us being “blessed,” and certainly there are many blessings as the result of serving him, but surely Jesus didn’t die a cruel death on a cross so we could have a better marriage, with 2.3 perfect kids, a bigger house, and a growing retirement fund. I think he died for a bit more than that.

A political mascot.  I would also propose that over the past several decades we’ve wrapped Jesus in the American flag and paraded him out on stage as the mascot of our favorite political party. We’ve confused responsible citizenship with Christian nationalism. One’s biblical, the other isn’t. There’s nothing wrong with standing together in large voting blocs on issues we believe in – that is part of our democratic process.  But we’ve done a disservice to the message of Jesus by presenting him as the one who’s against bigger government and for less taxes. Or the one who’s for family values but against equality for all people. (Don’t read into that last sentence something I didn’t say!) Or the one who’s for border patrol and against gun control. I’m not saying some of the issues that we, as followers of Christ, have stood for are either right or wrong (that’s a whole other post), and please don’t read into this that I’m unpatriotic – I’m not!  But what I am saying is that when we make Jesus our mascot in the political process it’s a total misrepresentation of him, and personally, I don’t think it’s helped the cause of Christ, only hindered it. 

A mean moralist.  I would also suggest that we’ve dressed Jesus in a three piece suite with his hair slicked back, wearing a frown on his face, and a long lists of do’s and don’ts in his hand. And by painting Jesus as a mean-spirited legalist, we’ve disfigured his face, obscuring his beauty from many, who may have otherwise been attracted to him. Let me be clear here. We don’t need more cheap grace! There are imperatives involved in following Christ. But Jesus didn’t come to make us miserable as we try to manage our sin; he came to offer us a new way of life, that’s made available to us through his life, that’s already living in us. 

Even though the interest in spirituality in America is up, the interest and involvement in Christianity is down, and I would suggest this disinterest and decline may be because of our misrepresentation of Christ. I’m not convinced it’s the life and message of Jesus that’s being rejected, but rather, much of the religion that’s grown up around him that’s being pushed aside.

I will admit the message of the cross is offensive. And I will admit that in a culture as consumeristic and narcissistic as ours, the gospel message may never be a popular one. But I do wonder how many people haven’t been able to get close enough to the confrontational yet life-changing message of the cross, because the false picture that we’ve painted of him has been a barrier to them?    

Of course, many of the images I’ve presented above (and many more like them) are not the Jesus that’s presented in the Gospels. So what do we do about it?  How do we start undressing him?

Here are a few things I’ve done over the last several years     

  • I’ve read, and then re-read and then read again, the Gospels. I spent over two years just in the Gospel of Mark alone, meditating on the life and message of Jesus, personally putting myself in the stories and walking with Jesus as he walked.  
  • I’ve been reading many of the Christian mystics and Christian classics. Their understanding of, and experiences with Jesus, have helped me remove some of my own “westernized” accruals of him.
  • I’ve been reading the lives of other followers of Christ who lived in other places, at other times. Their stories have helped me gain a broader and deeper picture of the person of Christ. 

How about you? In what ways do you need to undress Jesus?

As you consider this question and further reflect upon this post, I trust it will move your toward a more pure and sincere devotion to Jesus Christ.

Sincerely Submitted,

Ken L Roberts


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14 thoughts on “Undressing Jesus

  1. Sandy, that's a GREAT QUESTON! Some must reads are:
    Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard
    The Great Omission by Dallas Willard
    Apprenticeship of Jesus by Gary Moon
    Christianity Beyond Belief by Todd Hunter
    A Long Obedience In The Same Direction by Eugene Peterson

    That's a START! Thanks for asking…

  2. Knowing my Savior as intimately as He knows me is scary and insists on my being vulnerable before Him. God is not a cosmic vending machine where I get my latest fix satisfied. He is a lover, a teacher, a friend, and it takes a lifetime to understand the complexity of His nature. Even then there is more to discover. What a powerful challenge you have presented…Thank you!

  3. Brenda,

    Thanks for your kind words. Getting to know Jesus and Jesus getting to know us – every part of us – is this essence of our ongoing transformation. Thanks for your contribution through the work you do that helps others along on their journey of self-discovery, healing, and wholeness.

  4. Ken, look on Facebook a few minutes ago. I've been studying with my youth group, Jesus, who he really was. THE MAN. My question has been "how can you love him if you don't REALLY know him! The youth have really grown and developed a stronger love for Christ. It's been very refreshing as a pastor to watch them dig in!

  5. Cliff,

    All I can say is AWESOME! You are on the right track! We have to help people – young and old – return to relationship with the real Jesus.


  6. Amen and Amen.
    In my opinion, one of the main reasons Christianity is struggling to maintain steady numbers in the west, is because good Christians have decided to set aside a primary mandate Christ left his church with; the Great Commission.
    Unfortunately, I think a low-grade embarrassment related to misrepresentations of Christian beliefs by a high-profile, very vocal few have left Christians with a lack of confidence in the very gospel message that led to our very salvation.
    What's the fix? A great first step Pastor Roberts has outlined here;
    Get as clear a picture of who Jesus really is as you possibly can… and then get out there and speak the "Good News" in confidence, and Love… (yes, even the "confrontational" parts)
    Thanks Ken

  7. Mark,

    Thanks for the comment. Very, very helpful. I agree that we have been mispresented by a few vocal and highly visible folks – seemingly speaking on behalf of all followers of Christ – and I agree we shouldn't be ashamed of the Gospel. Your response – as always – is insightful and encouraging.


  8. What an amazing article! Thank you! It is right on the spot and has a practical application that I can’t wait to dive into. I love this group! Praise the Lord.

  9. You are right on the mark.
    I knelt down at an alter in COBLESKILL NY in mid March 1977. Since then my life was never the same. In so many ways I have disrobed Jesus.
    I call myself a completed Christian. So many of us spend our attention on Jesus as a monotheis and forget Jesus was formed with flesh and blood. Although he confronted the. Devil in the desert, Jesus experienced many buman feelings. For me, Iam inspired with the life he lived out as a model.