Entry 21: The Art of Manliness

Location: Jerusalem

You’ll have to excuse me ladies, but this one is more for the guys.

            What defines us as men? Or rather, what is our definition of manliness? The ideals that make somebody manly can change over time, but there are also those that stay consistent. For example, manliness is usually defined through strength or toughness, how capable you are, willingness to get your hands dirty, being well-known, conduct with women (this being both good and bad), education or being well-spoken, and yes, arguments can be made for other characteristics as well. The point is, we have a strong definition of manliness and what can make a man “manly.”  Who, though, are our examples for manliness? We see lots of manly men in movies but most of them have a skewed moral code that generally allows for a pretty sizeable grey area. Our fathers can teach us to be men and that’s a good start, but does that coincide with all those forms of manliness? Perhaps not. 

            Now then, let’s get Biblical. We often quite literally paint Jesus as a fair skinned, clean, and rather thin man. To be honest the only “manly” thing about Jesus that we usually envision is the fact that he has a beard and the fact that he has several manly nicknames (Examples include: Son of MAN and EmMANuel). And that’s how we leave it; Jesus was a softhearted, gentle, and tender person, right? Well, yes, but entirely? No.

            We often skip who Jesus was for the first 30 years of his life because the Bible skips most of it. This, however, doesn’t mean we don’t know anything about it.  Primarily, for 20 some years, Jesus was a carpenter. Today carpentry is a work field that boasts some pretty rough and rugged men but back then, without the modern technology we have today, let’s just say our carpenters probably pale in comparison.  For years Jesus probably passed his time hauling lumber and spending lots of quality time with hammers. Doing this for as long as he did will reward one with a handful things; calluses, muscles, and more than a handful of cuts, bruises, as well as a few accidental hammer to finger collisions for good measure. By the time Jesus was 30 he was likely scarred, a few of his fingers were probably bent the wrong way, and, without a doubt, he was strong.

            We also know that during his later years of ministry, we know that Jesus walked from town to town. Even today if you spend the whole day walking in a place like Jerusalem you are going to get dirty, but in that time, when the only other modes of transportation are donkeys, camels, and the like, walking could be a messy business. Jesus did this in sandals. There was a reason the rich had servants to wash the feet of their guests and if you haven’t caught on by now it’s because their feet were covered in poo. Chances are that Jesus’ clean white robe wasn’t quite as pretty as we would like to imagine.

            So Jesus was probably a tougher guy than we would usually give him credit for and definitely wasn’t clean all the time, but that doesn’t encompass all that it means to be a man. Being a man can also include how one’s mind works. This again was no problem for the Son of Man. Jesus is recorded several times verbally annihilating the supposedly most well spoken men of his time, the Pharisees. His ability to turn a phrase was incredible because he knew what he was talking about and he would never get tricked into a quick or poorly thought out response. 

            Therefore Jesus is tough, he is quick-witted and because of this he is followed. We know Jesus had 12 disciples who left their lives at a moment’s notice to follow him, but we frequently ignore that there were way more than 12 people following Jesus around consistently. In Luke Jesus sends out 72 people to prepare the way in cities he planned to visit. Even more significant than this is when Jesus feeds the 5000 (men) that have followed him without as much as second thought.   The lack of a second thought being why nobody had brought food. They were too preoccupied with the idea of following to think about even the necessities. When Jesus entered the room, everyone in the room knew it. He couldn’t go somewhere without being followed by a crowd. Even when he specifically forbid somebody from mentioning what he had done, the same person quickly ran off and shouted his name through the streets. Jesus had a presence that was uncontainable and undeniable. 

            Jesus also shows us how to deal with one of life’s greatest mysteries, women.  The fact that the Bible takes time to mention women in the story of Jesus means that they must have held a great significance. There are several stories of Jesus going out of his way to be kind to women and treat them as equals, a notion not commonly expressed at that time. Most men when coming into contact with prostitutes either totally avoid them or do the complete opposite. Jesus took the time to not only acknowledge them, but to talk to them and encourage them. 

            So Jesus was tough and dirty, he was well spoken, a leader, he knew how to treat women, and perhaps most importantly, he shows men how to exhibit their emotions. A lot of men have difficulty showing emotion. Not Jesus. When he was distressed, he showed it. When he was sad, he cried. When he was happy, everybody around him knew. Even when Jesus was angry he shows it. We all know the story of Jesus flipping over tables and physically hand making a whip to chase people out of the temple with (John 2:15), but let’s not forget that he also called out the Pharisees many other times calling them things such as hypocrites (Luke 11:44), vipers (Matt. 23:33), and fools (Matt. 23:17). Jesus knew how to express his anger with emphasis.  Yet, his greatest expression of emotion didn’t involve flipping tables it involved a much more phenomenon called hematidrosis, also known as sweating blood.  Sweating blood is extremely rare and is only related to high stress levels such as facing one’s own death.

            Jesus was not only the Son of Man, he was The Man. The history of Jesus’ life shows us so much more than a kind-hearted savior, it shows us what the essence of manhood is. Some people’s lives are so beautiful they are considered an art in and of themselves. The life of Jesus was one of these, the art of manliness.