Wednesday, April 13, 2016

What Did Jesus Really Look Like?

There are so many drawings, paintings, TV shows, and movies depicting what Jesus looked like. Usually He is portrayed as having long hair, a beard, and is fairly tall. Of course, no one really knows exactly how He looked. Was He tall, was He short, was He skinny, was He fat? For some reason, I really can't imagine Jesus as being short and fat. Nothing against short and fat people. I can't imagine Jesus being really tall either. Nothing against tall people. Maybe I've just been inundated by images of what people presume Jesus looked like.

What does the Bible say about how Jesus looked? Not much, but we do have some clues. Let's take a look at some of the different periods of the existence of Jesus. 

Jesus existed before the creation of the world. He always existed. Before Jesus took on the form of a man, He was referred to as The Word. Jesus was with God and Jesus was God. Immanuel - means God with us. "In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God." (John 1:1-2) So, what did Jesus, as the Word, look like? Unimaginable.

Hardly anything is said in the Bible about the childhood and young adult life of Jesus. So we can assume that he was just a normal Jewish boy. The only clues to His appearance as a child are found in the second chapter of Luke. He was healthy, strong, and full of stature.

"There the child grew up healthy and strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favor was on him." (Luke 2:49) "Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people." (Luke 2:52)

So, what did Jesus look like as a boy? Probably just an average looking Jewish boy.  

I am leaning toward Jesus being slim as an adult, especially during the last 3 years of His life. He came from a poor family. He didn't live a life of leisure and have an abundance of food then. And during His ministry, Jesus did a lot of walking, that's for sure. Certainly Jesus and His disciples lived a plain, simple lifestyle. 

Some think because He is God in the flesh, He was an absolutely perfectly formed model of a human being. Maybe, but I doubt it. If Jesus didn't exhibit such humility in all things, perhaps He would be an extraordinary, attractive, handsome man. But humility is central to Jesus. From His birth to His life to His death, everything demonstrated humility. Look at the way He was born - in a manger. And look how Jesus is humbly described as far as His entrance into the physical, earthly realm....

'"Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!" (Philippians 2:6-8)

So considering all this, I would think that Jesus was a regular looking guy. Or look at it this way - a regular looking Jew! That's right, Jesus was a Jew. And His genealogy recorded in the Bible proves that He came from a long line of Jews. Now, I can tell you this....a regular looking Jew back then most likely had dark hair, dark eyes, and fairly dark complexion. 

There is really only one place in the Bible that gives a description of Jesus' appearance. It's found in a prophecy told by the prophet Isaiah about 700 years before Jesus was born. He describes the coming Messiah, Jesus, as nothing extraordinary. In other words, a regular looking Jew. 

"My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him."  
(Isaiah 53:2)

The word 'transfiguration' means 'a complete change of form'. There was an event recorded in the Gospels where Jesus temporarily and briefly went through a transfiguration. It was witnessed by Peter, James, and John. 

"As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light." (Matthew 17:2) 

This was a moment when the true identity of Jesus (God in the flesh) shone through. His face and even His clothes became white light! 

When Jesus resurrected from the dead, and walked upon the earth for 40 days, there were a few times when He wasn't recognized right away. Was this because He looked somewhat different, or was it because He simply appeared unexpectedly? Who knows. At the tomb on the day He rose, Mary Magdalene didn't recognize Him at first. The disciples on the road to Emmaus didn't recognize Him at first either. One thing is for sure - He had the wounds on His wrists and on His side because He showed them to Thomas. He ate fish with the disciples, so He was still in a physical body that was resurrected from the dead.

Jesus may have looked ordinary when He was on earth, but He sure does not look ordinary now, ascended into Heaven, sitting at God's right hand. There's a description of the resurrected Jesus that is found in the book of Revelation. Realize that the book of Revelation records the vision that the Apostle John had. So it's like describing a dream - very symbolic. 

"And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest. 14 His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire. 15 His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. 16 He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth. And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance." (Revelation 1:13-16)

This description by John could be literal, could be symbolic, or could be a mix of the two. Regardless, the appearance of Jesus in Revelation is certainly totally different than His appearance when He came to earth, taking on the form of a man. It seems the transfiguration talked about earlier was sort of a brief glimpse of the glorified Jesus who now exists. 

When Jesus comes to earth the second time, His appearance will be incredible. And totally different than when He came to earth the first time. When He returns, He will come as a victorious warrior and judge. The Apostle John sees a vision of what this will be like. Again, maybe part literal, maybe part symbolism, but certainly very dramatic. 

"I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:king of kings and lord of lords."  (Revelation 19:11-16)

Jesus has taken on many forms. He pre-existed, as part of the God-head, before the creation of the world as The Word. Jesus came to earth, God in the flesh, and took on the appearance of a man. Jesus revealed a glimpse of His true identity at the Transfiguration, where His glory shone through. He died on the cross and resurrected from the dead and appeared to many. He ascended into heaven, now glorified. And He will return to gather His church in brilliant appearance. He is truly the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, and deserves all our praise.

So when you see a painting or picture of Jesus, remember He is so much more than that. And so much more than what we can ever imagine Him to look like.