Images of art and culture often shape our minds concerning those faces we have never seen. The depictions of historical figures before the days of photographs have often cast into our minds a portrayal that may not be completely accurate. How many times have you gotten to know a radio personality by ear, had a vision of that person in your mind, and then saw them on television or in a photograph – only to find they look completely different than what you had imagined?
If one were to compare the picture that the Bible paints of Jesus with the last 2000 years of portraits of Christ from art and culture, there would be a stark contrast between the true Jesus and the one we have come to know. Just google “what did Jesus look like” and search images. You will find everything from blonde and beardless to a man of Asian or African descent. The point is that people have decided to paint their own image of who they would like for Him to be and what they would be comfortable with as far as a Savior is concerned. But I would like you to think for a few moments with me about a man that was more beautiful than we could imagine, but not in physical appearance.
Jesus was a rugged man. He was a carpenter and he had carpenter’s hands. They would have been rough and calloused. They would have been cracked and possibly scarred. They would not have been soft and gentle. They were beautiful because they were working hands.
Jesus was a strong man. He was a man’s man. We get the image from pictures that he was slight of build and not too muscular. Pictures show him as average in size, and at times even effeminate. But I know of a man who drove out money changers and overturned tables in the temple. He took a whip and drove men of prominence and influence away from God’s holy place of worship. Nobody dared fight back. He was a man who could win a physical match against one or more like himself. This makes his physically imposing appearance even more beautiful. Children longed to sit on his lap, and he willingly went to the cross without objection when people he could have handled were spitting in his face.
Jesus was not a good looking man. This may bother you. You may want him to be handsome, but the Bible says that he was not. One version says, “There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him” (Isaiah 53:2). He was of Jewish decent and so he looked like a common male of his culture and time. Unless you knew him personally you would not have said, “This must be the Son of God.” He often slipped through crowds unnoticed (Luke 4:30; John 5:15, 7:11, 11:56). The people he grew up with saw just another boy from Nazareth. The women who came to him did not do so because he looked like a movie star. They were often broken and just needed someone who cared. This makes the face of Jesus so much more beautiful. It was not what was seen in the outer man that drew multitudes, it was what was coming out of him from within.
Jesus probably didn’t have long hair. But you’ve probably never seen him depicted without it. You see the beard, the flowing locks, and the glowing countenance. The men of his day did not wear their hair long, and if they did it was often thought of as a disgrace (1 Cor. 11:14). It is likely he had a beard as this was common among the Jewish men. This would have made him even more unrecognizable. In short there was nothing about him in outward appearance that would have made anyone give him a second look. This makes the appearance of Jesus more beautiful, in that in reminds us that God sees beauty in what may be viewed by humanity as common or plain.
Jesus had a humble birth. He was raised in a poor family. He was not attractive. He had to work hard. He walked lonely and dusty roads. He was despised and rejected and we did not esteem him. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief and we hid our faces from him. Jesus was all of these things because God loved us too much to send a Redeemer that looked the way we would have wanted. He sent the Advocate we needed. The real Jesus is too beautiful for pictures and portraits. Only God can paint a Savior.
“For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
– 2 Corinthians 4:6
Photo background credit: ideacreamanuelaPps on Creative Commons