It seems that everyone nowadays wants to reinterpret Jesus to suit their own sensibilities or political agendas, and so many people speculating on what Jesus would look like if he came today imagine him somehow as a homeless wretch, a Palestinian refugee, or even a poor black girl with no hope of a future.
It is true that Jesus identified with the downtrodden and suffering, and was downtrodden and suffered himself:
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
Isaiah 53: 2-4
However, it is important to note that Jesus was not a victim. Unlike people of the world who are born into misery or suffer affliction without having had a choice, Jesus suffered because it was part of God’s plan and because it was something that he chose to do. At any point in his life on earth, he could have walked away from things and returned to being a humble carpenter, or he could have enjoyed the riches of the world as a political leader. He went to Jerusalem knowing that he was going to be arrested and die on the cross. Whatever suffering Jesus had in his life was something that he allowed.
Jesus would therefore be homeless, but not a wretch; a refugee, but not someone seeking help or sympathy from others; a poor black girl, maybe, but one with hopes of a bright future. Not once in Scripture do we ever see Jesus whining, complaining that life was unfair, or begging for bread. His life was of his own choosing, and he looked to God–not man–to supply all his needs.
We say this not to condemn people who have unfortunate lives, as we have been poor and homeless ourselves. Rather, we say this to point out that many people have distorted the Gospel message. The Gospel message is not Jesus, dead on the cross; but, Jesus Christ, tortured, humiliated, scorned, and crucified, resurrected in triumph to walk the earth again and then sit at the right hand of his Father in Heaven, having defeated all of his foes, not with the sword or bloodshed, or government programs or handouts, but with truth, righteousness, and the power of God. The message of the Gospel is not one of defeat, or even victory through the power of human flesh: It is of total victory through the Holy Spirit and faith in God, where we overcome every hardship that befalls us.
This is a very different Jesus from what the unwashed, pagan world imagines Jesus to be.