What Did Jesus Look Like?

Would you recognize a picture of Jesus if you saw it?  How interesting that we would answer that question, “Yes.” There certainly is a picture we know and recognize to be Jesus and yet we really do not know what Jesus looked like.

A Recognition Problem

Just in case you’re a little fuzzy on this, the Bible never gives us a physical description of Jesus.  Any pictures of Jesus are pure speculation.  But even the one we “recognize” definitely is not what He looked like.  We know that for a couple of reasons.  First, the Bible says that the coming Messiah would not be a handsome or attractive man. “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 32:5).  The point of this prophecy is that the Messiah, Jesus, would not draw men to himself based on something so shallow as being good looking.  But the man in the Jesus picture is definitely a handsome fellow.

The second reason we know that Jesus Himself wouldn’t recognize His own picture is that He was a Jew from Palestine in the first century.  The man we recognize in the picture as Jesus is Caucasian of European descent.  That guy would have stuck out like a sore thumb in first century Palestine.

What’s the Real Point Here?

So, no, we really don’t know what Jesus looked like.  But the point here is not so petty as to just prove people are wrong about Jesus’ appearance. Instead, it is to gain some insight about us.  And like Jesus’ looks, it’s not too pretty.

Why would a depiction of Jesus that cannot be accurate be so readily and widely accepted?

One reason is that we are actually more interested in what is familiar and comfortable than we are in what is true.  It’s an emotional thing and don’t underestimate the power of emotional ties.

The problem with emotions is that they can mislead and betray us.  Is it not true that Jesus was rejected because He was considered a threat to people’s comfortable understanding of their relationship with God?  He was accused of breaking the Law of Moses when in reality He perfectly fulfilled it.  People much prefer comfort to discomfort and rather than embrace what is uncomfortable, unfamiliar and true, they will reject truth.

Another reason there is such a familiar picture of Jesus is our fundamental desire to connect with Him. We want to be able to say we know Jesus, even if it is nothing more than to know what He looks like.  What is more, we also want to connect with Him by having Him be like us – to look like us.  Why else would there be Euro Caucasian, Oriental, Afro-American, Native American, Hispanic, and other ethnic-based depictions of Jesus?

Here It Is!

Making a connection with Jesus is a good thing – a very good thing.  But making an inadequate connection is something Jesus specifically warned us about (Luke 13:22-30; Matthew 7:21-23).  No matter how we may think we may be tied to Jesus, it is only “the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” that will enter heaven (Matt. 7:21).

What Jesus looked like really does not matter. Whether I think He did or did not look like His picture makes no difference.  What does make a difference is whether or not a I make a faith connection with Him. In His own words,”unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24).

Or, to say it another way, the question really isn’t whether we recognize Him, but rather in the judgment if He will recognize us (Matt. 7:23; 25:12).

God bless,

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