Jesus Christ has sparked the imagination of generations of people. If we want to know what some people think Jesus looked like as a baby, boy or man, we have but to observe what history has provided. These are the conceptions of artists and dreamers.
There seems to be two constants in all these visual attempts:
I. Jesus, looking like popular culture. (or like me)
By far, the most common picture is the one that ends up next to the other King—you know, Elvis.
Jesus and Elvis are on sale at Bazaars, Yard sales, Flea Markets and Dollar Stores everywhere.
Velvet Jesus or velvet Elvis. Hmmm. Now which one do I get? Oh, just give me one of each please.
II. Jesus, looking like “us” Caucasians,
was a European, handsome male with long, beautiful hair and attractive features. Next in popularity is the one that ends up on the Lord’s Supper pictures, with none other than Leonardo da Vinci painting in true European style. Put it on a gold painted pressboard frame. (Nothing but the finest for Elvis and Jesus—in that order)
Finally, the super mystical, halo design that assures us Jesus really is who he is pictured to be.
How about the movies?
Surely the film giants know what Jesus looked like and would be very interested in historical accuracy and all that? Nope, I guess not. They too have cast a Western Jesus –a blue eyed beauty, perfectly trimmed beard and long flowing hair. Oh yea, in the movies Jesus always sounds like he was born and raised in Nottingham, instead of Bethlehem and Nazareth.
Who can tell us what Jesus really looked like? Maybe the bible?
“Has anyone believed us or seen the mighty power of the LORD in action? Like a young plant or a root that sprouts in dry ground, the servant grew up obeying the LORD.
He wasn’t some handsome king. Nothing about the way he looked made him attractive to us. He was hated and rejected; his life was filled with sorrow and terrible suffering.
No one wanted to look at him. We despised him and said, “He is a nobody!”
He suffered and endured great pain for us, but we thought his suffering was punishment from God. He was wounded and crushed because of our sins; by taking our punishment, he made us completely well.
All of us were like sheep that had wandered off. We had each gone our own way, but the LORD gave him the punishment we deserved. He was painfully abused, but he did not complain. He was silent like a lamb being led to the butcher, as quiet as a sheep having its wool cut off. He was condemned to death without a fair trial. Who could have imagined what would happen to him?
His life was taken away because of the sinful things my people had done.
He wasn’t dishonest or violent, but he was buried in a tomb of cruel and rich people.
The LORD decided his servant would suffer as a sacrifice to take away the sin and guilt of others. Now the servant will live to see his own descendants. He did everything the LORD had planned.
By suffering, the servant will learn the true meaning of obeying the LORD.
Although he is innocent, he will take the punishment for the sins of others, so that many of them will no longer be guilty.
The LORD will reward him with honor and power for sacrificing his life. Others thought he was a sinner, but he suffered for our sins and asked God to forgive us.” (Isaiah 53)
Stature: Jesus grew in stature. “The child Jesus grew. He became strong and wise, and God blessed him.” (Luke 2:40)
Hair Length: Sorry long-haired enthusiast who need Jesus’ hair to have been long and flowing. Jewish men of that day did not wear their hair long.
“Isn’t it unnatural and disgraceful for men to have long hair?” (I Corinthians 11:14)
Skin: Jesus was of Middle Eastern, Jewish descent, so his skin would have been olive / brown.
Body: Jesus worked with wood, stone and timber. He would have been a strong, tanned, rugged man.
“Nothing about the way he looked made him attractive to us.”
He looked like most all the Jewish men. He blended in with his culture and only His Spirit (authority) and teachings stood out as unusual. I can imagine someone telling another person to search for Jesus. “Hey, go find Jesus for me. He will be the one with short hair, a beard and a dingy, well-worn robe. O yea, he’s wearing sandals on his feet.”
Also, I wonder what Jesus looked like to the man born blind in John 9. Perhaps losing sight-ability was helpful?
The appearance of this man Jesus at his crucifixion bore no resemblance to the one who rode into Jerusalem on a colt. Inhuman cruelty hung and nailed this Jesus to a wooden cross. He was beaten and spat upon. His head was pierced with a crown of thorns and his side was pierced. He was disfigured.
Revelation 1:13-18 gives us yet another appearance factor. The one to come:
“When I turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lampstands. There with the lampstands was someone who seemed to be the Son of Man. He was wearing a robe that reached down to his feet, and a gold cloth was wrapped around his chest. His head and his hair were white as wool or snow, and his eyes looked like flames of fire. His feet were glowing like bronze being heated in a furnace, and his voice sounded like the roar of a waterfall. He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp double-edged sword was coming from his mouth. His face was shining as bright as the sun at noon.”
We begin to understand then that, the scarcity of detail in the bible concerning Jesus body features may just be God’s way of reminding us once again what He said through the prophet Jeremiah,
“People judge others by what they look like, but I judge people by what is in their hearts.” (I Samuel 16:7)
I can remember the 60’s when many of the boys wanted to wear long hair, though it was most often frowned upon by parents and establishment alike. When fellows wanted to justify their hair of length, they would often conjure up the Jesus of European descent, with hair on the shoulders and looking suave. Surely Jesus would rescue them and their need for the long locks.
Never mind that no other features of Jesus, especially the ones where he said,
believe in me,
take up your cross,
lay down your life, give up your life”,
and the list is long, were quoted for justification of lifestyle and or appearance.
The moral is: We can use Jesus as we would any self-serving devise.
Jesus is, as many have acknowledged, unwelcomed in many New Testament Churches.
He would most certainly be poorly dressed, and paired with people not always welcomed on Sunday mornings USA.
He welcomed and conversed with people we often resist and shun. He said,
“The poor you have always with you.”
Gordon Jensen writes so poignantly: “Here in My Own Town” (used by permission)
Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mraJAQT3JGk
“I met Jesus today and I really must tell you, He didn’t look at all like the pictures.
It wasn’t even Sunday, and I wasn’t in a church, but it was Him, just as sure as can be.
He was a hungry child, a sick friend of mine, a stranger who needed a coat;
He was a lonely old man, who needed a friend, a pris’ner, forsaken and alone.
And suddenly I knew that I had seen him before, so many times before.
And that I’d let him down, not knowing it was Jesus here in my own town.
I met Jesus today and I really must tell you, there was no dazzling light or angel choir;
And though I’d read His book, it surprised me to find Him In the street, among the needy and poor.”
The Jesus we envision and worship becomes and defines our churches. This is because churches are made up of those who are called to follow Jesus. What can we do when this makes us uncomfortable—when we trusted the wrong artist?
May we join with the Apostle Peter,
“You have never seen Jesus, and you don’t see him now. But still you love him and have faith in him, and no words can tell how glad and happy you are to be saved. That’s why you have faith.” (I Peter 1:8-9)
Father, the real Jesus pictured for us in the scriptures is the one we want to know and love. Train our eyes and open our hearts to know Him. Close our eyes to this cluttered world and open our ears to hear. May the fruits of our labors lend proof of our love for the Christ who loved us first. In Christ–Amen