There are many paintings, monuments and sculptures depicting the artist’s interpretation of what Jesus Christ really looked like. Some are similar to one another, but there are not two that are exactly the same.
Most are in agreement that we really do not know what He looked like. And it usually does not matter to us, as long as we understand that it is Jesus in the piece of art. Jesus lies in the hearts of many in different forms and what matters most to us is His teachings and how we relate to Him in our own personal relationship with Him.
A unique sculpture of Jesus is going to be situated on the campus of First Presbyterian Church in Orlando at the corner of Rosiland and Jackson streets. The sculpture, “is intended to give dignity and worth to our homeless,” David Swanson, Senior Pastor at the church said, “to let them know that Jesus is with them – and to remind others of Matthew 25 – when you do it ‘to the least of these, you have done it unto me.'”
Pastor Swanson explained that his “feelings” on the homeless “are that they bear the image of God, are worthy of our respect and dignity, and we are called by Jesus to serve the least among us. They are our ‘least.’”
The church is very active serving the homeless community. They feed 250 for breakfast every Sunday and leads them in worship afterward. They also have a ministry called Compassion Corner that is available Monday through Friday. This service provides a place for the homeless to go where they can access social services, participate in Bible study if they choose to and other services as needed.
For the past ten years, Pastor Swanson has served at First Presbyterian Church where they have served the the homeless in a variety of ministries. He has been on the board of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness for the last two years and also as chair of the Mayor’s Social Fabric committee. Pastor Swanson explained that the committee “examined what actually holds a community together for a common purpose.”
Pastor Swanson emphasized that we do not have a hunger problem in Orlando. “Feedings downtown are a band-aid,” he said. “We have agencies in town who serve food and feed the homeless effectively, so when an organization decides to feed, they are actually working at cross purpose to those who are doing it every day.” He said their food goes to waste and the budgets lose focus when these groups decide to feed in the park, for instance.
The sculpture is a creation of Timothy Schmalz, an Ontario, Canada-based artist that works with large public monuments and Christian church commissions. This particular piece is called “Jesus the Homeless.” The same sculpture has also been commissioned at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland.
Pastor Swanson said some have objected to Jesus being portrayed as a homeless man.
Rhonda Lackie of Orlando thought the money for the statue cold have been spent aiding the homeless, but she also said “if It makes enough people think and motivates those people to help, then that’s really what matters.”
Richard Peete of Orlando likes the idea because it will make people think. “If they had done the right thing by the homeless there wouldn’t be a need for the statue,” he added.
On the other hand, Gus Martinez of Kissimmee said “the next thing you’ll see is people praying to it. Last thing God’s people need is another idol.”
Despite any negative thoughts on the subject, the sculpture is going up as soon as Schmalz has it cast in bronze and delivers it to the church.
“I hope it will serve as an artistic reminder to all who pass or drive by,” Pastor Swanson explained, “that they stop and think about ‘the least” among us and God’s call to all of us to do more to serve them.”