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A long time ago, Dean Bogie Dunn warned us seminarians about the puddy nose Jesus. He warned us that this paddy nose was our own doing. People will have very different images and belief systems or their own making or adaptation and shape the image of Jesus into their own designs. This is what he meant by the term “puddy nose Jesus.” The image we have of Jesus (not only his physical self but his behavior, beliefs and attitudes) is the first place we must begin if we ever want to really allow The Way of Jesus to be known.

Each person, from the most complicated to the incredibly simple, has processed information they have received through their own particular filters of culture, context, experience and personality. We than modify, scrutinize, morph and adjust all that information to fit into our general schema of our fundamental beliefs concerning reality. This is why our images of Jesus, both his physical appearance and his message have so many different and varied outcomes. We aren’t really presenting Jesus. Rather we are presenting our own projections of how we believe reality “fits” and how this Jesus reinforces what we already believe to be true. This is particularly the occupation of the unexamined and non-critical believer. Jesus as a puddy nose, shaped and fashioned to be just the projection of their own self-image angrandized.

Pause for a moment. Close your eyes and think about your Jesus. Is he the same race you are? Does he speak your language? Are his and yours enemies one in the same? Is his religion yours? Are his beliefs the same as yours? When considering the infamous “WWJD” question is his answer most all the time the same as yours? Is Your Jesus concerned with the same things and issues you are? Is your Jesus of the same political party as you? Does Jesus vote the way you vote? Spend money the same as you? Is your Jesus on the same side as you in most all of the big social questions and issues of the day? Does Jesus hate whom you hate and like who you like? Does Jesus believe what you believe?

When we begin to see that our answers are affirmative to a great majority of the above questions we can be most assured that the Jesus we have in mind is a puddy nose whom we have made in our own image. We protect and project a Jesus that is not real, historical or eternal. In fact when we die that single-held image of Jesus will also die since it is only to be found in our mind.

This phenomenon has been recorded by various authors and saints. Titles of books and articles like, “The Jesus I never met” or “The Jesus I Never knew” relate to this awareness. Unfortunately there are few. In our spiritual pilgrimage, our quest, or discipleship and search for the real Jesus the first place everyone of us must begin at is to kill that Jesus. It is OK. He isn’t real. He is the fabrication of our own making. No matter how good, grand, wonderful, powerful, helpful, comforting or real that puddy nose seems to be or has seemed to be for us in our living we will never be engaged by the real Jesus if his place is already occupied by one of our own making.

This is indeed disturbing and counter-intuitive as that image of Jesus has become for us a trusted friend and dear Lord. But, it is really no different than the child who has the pretend friend that they talk to and play with. When it is time to grow up that pretend friend goes. Our self-projected portrait of Jesus interferes with and prohibits us from following the real One.

How will we know we are being encountered by the real Jesus and not just some image produced by ourselves again or by some “other” entity? Here is the crux! The Way is not easy and as Jesus has taught us few find it. How will we know and why should we take your word for it? I am not asking you to take my word for it. I am only asking you to give yourself permission to entertain the possibility that almost all that passes for Jesus today, including your own set of beliefs and images may not be what is truly available to you.

A couple of guidelines we can know for certain concerning the real Jesus. One is that nothing the real Jesus says or does or asks of us will ever be against, counter or oppose the Holy Scripture. Only the devil and his demons do that. If the Jesus we encounter in any form or fashion disregards the holy faith as it has been revealed through Scripture you can be assured that it is a false Christ. This has been one of the ancient marks of the true Messiah from the very beginning. As Jesus has taught and demonstrated, the Scriptures are solid and tue and will not pass away. In Jesus’ earthly life there were those who attempted to see if they could get him to in some way contradict, depart from or downright oppose a commandment of God. If they could prove that he did not observe the Torah it will be proof positive that he was not the Messiah. But as the witnesses of his life and teachings show us Jesus never broke a single Commandment but lived them fully and obediently. Who Jesus was he is and always shall be. This is the first sign post we are to follow. Is the Jesus we are following observant of all of Scripture? He will do nothing to demote or contradict any of it.

They second test may be even more difficult to embrace. This test is comprised of the many questions we began this entry with. The more my Jesus is like me and is to my liking, the more certain I can be that it is not the real Jesus. Jesus is Holy. “Holy” is the Word we use to indicate that which is so very apart from and different from us as possible. Jesus is not a reflection of the best of us. He is completely and utterly different. May our journey continue.

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