7 Arguments Against a Pretty-Boy Jesus

Jesus was not a prim-and-proper gentleman. He was a wild-at-heart warrior on a mission.

Picture the Jesus of most Sunday School lessons. What do you see? Chances are, you envision someone a lot like Mister Rogers — kind, gentle, and compassionate. A bearded therapist who pats Timmy on the head and tells him to be “a good little boy.” A handsome prince with perfect hair and impeccable manners. A preppy pacifist who always did what was expected and was loved by everyone.

But the Gospel accounts show a different picture.

Big ocean wave breaking the shoreIf you grew up with that sweet-faced, Sunday-school Jesus, this may be news to you. But the Bible is clear: Jesus was not the prim-and-proper gentleman we sometimes make him out to be. He was a wild-at-heart warrior on a mission — bold, disciplined, and unafraid. He had calluses on his hands and dirt under his nails. He did what was right, even when it was unpopular.

We need to know this rugged Savior. Only he can impact this broken world and call his followers to action. Let’s take a quick look at seven arguments against the pretty-boy Jesus.

1. He grew up in tough circumstances.

Jesus certainly didn’t come into the world with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. Born in a barn, he spent his toddler years in a foreign country as a political refugee. When things settled down, he grew up in a rough mountain village in the rural region of Galilee.

Simply put, Jesus was a country boy, complete with regional accent. He assumed his father’s trade — combining skill, strength, and sweat as a construction worker. And, as the oldest son, he assumed responsibility for his mother and siblings after Joseph’s probable death. Jesus certainly knew hardship from an early age.

2. He hung out with rough people.

Jesus didn’t spend his days with the well-to-do at the country club wearing khaki slacks and a sports coat. Instead, he hung out with the humble, blue-collar folk on the other side of the tracks.

His closest friends were fishermen, which was a tough, labor-intensive profession. One of his followers was a zealot, a political dissident and disturber of the peace. He enjoyed meals with white-collar criminals like Matthew and Zacchaeus. Moreover, Jesus made friends with sinful women — the ones society had discarded. Far from the cultural elite, Jesus loved, served, and befriended “the least of these.”

3. He challenged societal norms.

The clean-cut, preppy Jesus would probably have gone along with the religious and social norms of the day. He wouldn’t want to make waves. But that’s not what the Gospels record. Jesus healed the blind and crippled on the Sabbath, a mandatory day of rest.

He touched lepers, though medically unclean, and let a prostitute wash his feet, though socially taboo. He allowed his disciples to eat with unwashed hands and pick grain from a field on the Sabbath. Jesus even ministered to non-Jews, including a Samaritan woman, a Greek girl, and a Roman centurion. He was a wave-maker indeed.

4. He picked fights.

Jesus didn’t avoid conflict, as many Sunday School lessons might imply. The man who said to “turn the other cheek” often escalated tensions with the things he said. During a conversation with religious leaders about washing rituals, Jesus said, “you nullify the word of God by your tradition” (Mark 7:13).

Elsewhere, Jesus ratcheted things up by saying that the Jewish elite were not children of Abraham or of God, but of the devil. Lastly, Jesus spends an entire chapter calling the religious leaders “hypocrites,” “blind guides,” “vipers,” and “murderers” (Matthew 23). Those are not exactly the words of a gentle guru promoting peace.

5. He confronted injustice.

Jesus was not a slick, big-city politician in a suit and tie who helped the “little people” as long as it didn’t ruffle any feathers. No, when Jesus saw injustice, he intervened, regardless of the consequences.

He stood up to the religious leaders who wanted to kill an adulterous woman, saying, “Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” (John 8:7). He also confronted the dishonest merchants and money-changers in the Temple, flipping tables and calling them “a den of robbers” (Mark 11:17). Jesus willingly squared off against the elite to protect the downtrodden. He was a bold revolutionary and a threat to those in power.

6. He stood up to lynch mobs.

There were at least three times when Jesus’ life was threatened by a mob. But, contrary to our gentle image of him, he never cowered. Early in his ministry, the people of Nazareth wanted to throw him off a cliff for his seemingly false claims. He didn’t let them.

Later, Jewish leaders sought to stone him to death, but Jesus evaded them. It wasn’t yet time. Finally, when a coalition of soldiers came to arrest him, Jesus didn’t run and hide, deceive and squirm, or stand and fight. Rather, he fearlessly and selflessly gave himself up while protecting his men. His courage under fire reveals the iron will of a hero.

7. He faced torture without fear.

The pale-faced, pretty-boy Jesus depicted in portraits and stained-glass windows would never have made it through Roman torture and execution without breaking. I picture that Jesus bawling like a baby and calling out for mercy. But that’s not what happened.

Like a prisoner of war, Jesus was fatigued from a sleepless night, lightheaded from blood loss, dehydrated from heat, unbalanced from repeated blows to the head, and then stripped naked and spat upon. But he never showed weakness, staying strong to the very end. A true warrior, he defiantly clenched his jaw and endured the torment with his honor intact.

*   *   *

I think it’s time to reexamine our understanding of this enigmatic teacher from Nazareth. The meek Messiah is neither accurate, nor effective. We need something more. We need to look at these passages again with unfiltered lenses to uncover a true and balanced picture of his life and work. If we do, we’ll come to know Jesus as he truly is — a rugged warrior who came to rescue us all. And following that Savior, we will find the mission and purpose we’ve always longed for.

The opinions expressed in this piece belong to the author.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

John McDougall
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  • Martin Hughes

    Well, you could counter most of these points with at least equal authenticity.
    No one says Jesus was born in a barn. ‘Inn’ is a very questionable translation. No one mentions innkeepers, little donkeys or other beasts.
    Jesus’ family claimed to be the sacred royal family of earlier times – no one is said to have mocked its claims. Few societies would let a family seriously regarded as having the highest status according to its majority religion exist in humble circumstances that would make their claims look hollow.
    There is no reference to enduring hardship in Egypt. If the Holy Family could stay in Egypt for as long as it chose it presumably had resources for doing this.
    Jesus is never shown working for a living in any Gospel scene, still less supporting his family many of whom regarded his state of mind as questionable, which is hardly how they’d have looked at a steady breadwinner. The remark of the crowd ‘Is this not the carpenter/’s son?’ suggests that he had been absent, pursuing religious or intellectual interests – not just scraping a living – for some time at that point. That is why he can say that prophecies are being fulfilled around him.
    If he was ‘a gluttonous man and a winebibber’ – or even could be spoken of with any plausibility in such terms – he was neither supporting himself by low-paid employment nor supporting a family. We tend to make our Jesus in our own image: I’m glad he liked a drink.
    It’s not easy to identify Nazareth but quite likely it was within walking distance of Sepphoris, the capital of Galilee in Jesus’ early life. So perhaps he was one for bright lights and a lively city.
    His companions in the fishing industry seem to have owned at least one boat between them: they weren’t the bottom of the pile and maybe they owned a fleet of fishing boats and were quite rich, perhaps even able to pay the fees for a social club of some kind. I almost said golf club but flights of fantasy can go too far.
    He may have been kind to prostitutes, who would mostly have been poor and desperate, but the women who were his financial backers included the wife of Herod’s steward who must have been one of the richest women in the country. The reference to Mary Magdalene suggests that she was of comparable status. It is not suggested in the biblical record that Jesus lived, even a little bit, on immoral earnings.
    The translations in which Jesus calls on people to be ‘meek’ are questionable, but the word does suggest an unassuming and gentle manner – at any rate not macho – and it is not suggested that Jesus conspicuously failed to follow his own advice. People who are of gentle disposition do not necessarily cower or cringe when threatened. He is shown as regarding the activities in the Temple as unendurable and provocative but this is a moment when he is pressed too far.
    The image of Jesus is a shimmering and elusive, not a cut and dried one.

    • nwcolorist

      Good comments.

      It’s also worth noting that Joesph took his family to the Passover week in Jerusalem every year. That was a major trip and not something that a poor Jew could do. I would think that Jesus’ family was economically middle to upper middle class.

      Regarding the term “meek”, neither the Hebrew nor the Greek meanings of the word suggest any type of weakness. Moses was described as meek. A closer definition might be the concept of humility, yet with restrained power,.

  • Arthur Quozon

    then how about knowing at that time a “CARPENTER” is not a trade with a few trees to cut but STONE CUTTER is the best trade compared to carpenter, but another thing how come a carpenter suddenly be joined together as husband and wife without angels message? when and how did josepH met and took mary? finding one gospel (NOT IN THE BIBLE) states joseph is a high priest farm-head, thus a farmer, that grup of priest have afaith on a coming messiah between age betwee, 10 to 14 (and mary is one candidate) they keep virgin young teens in their church and set-free after the age of 14, therefore they believe on the angels’ messages. mary coming at age 14 must be set free but prayers afters prayers with signs still placed mary as the one to be blessed with a coming child. i a meeting decision so as not to go against the law, theywill set fre mary but to make her still under the churchs’ care she will be given under the care of Joseph thus mary and joseph will still be under their abode. joseph a good a Gopd faithful man to avoid in contact with mary keep his days on the farmlands but one day he went home mary is pregnant. the uttered the most shocking part of it, joseph mentions (as if he knows what happened in the garden between satan in serpent’s body, adam and eve) “what happened to this woman my LORD, i never did touched her but she was pregnant, DID IT HAPPENED TO HER WHAT HAVE HAPPENED IN THE GARDEN? (did joseph knew that satana-el or sama-el an angel of God turned rebel in a bid to create his own material kingdom impregnated Eve with a son CAIN? ABEL is Adam’s son to Eve a TWIN with one woman different fathers (no one can argue that accepted by modern man’s medical world called “twinning”). this lines make truth about the josep, mary and the messiah other than a carpenter and an ordinary woman. THIS IS THE AGE AND TIME OF TRUTH OF THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS THE HOLY SPIRIT AND COMPORTER OF TRUTH. THE SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOW THE KNOWLEDGE OF TRUTH AND UNTRUTH OF GOOD AND EVIL BUT NO ONE CAN NOW PERPETRATE LIES, SOMEONE WILL REVEAL THE TRUTH.

  • gapaul

    Geez this is offensive. Jesus is not a comic book hero and he doesn’t have any part in your “Hulk vs. the Sissies” view of the world.

    Not only does the New Testament not mention anything about his appearance or dude-ness, but when the early church attempted to say anything at all it reached back to Isaiah 53

    “For he grew up before him like a young plant, (“tender shoot” the KJV says)
    and like a root out of dry ground;
    he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”

    The point of Jesus is not that he was some tough-guy, but that he was an ordinary man. Not a Seal Team 6 member, (“rugged warrier?” please.) I will grant you he had courage. So did Malala Yousafzai. That 15 year old girl shot on her way to school.