What Does Jesus Look Like?

I think we each have a “Frame of Reference” when it comes to Jesus. For most of us, our Frame of Reference has developed over years. What we learned in Sunday school as a child has affected our Frame of Reference. What we hear in sermons affects our Frame of Reference. What we see of Jesus in movies and art and in books we read affect our Frame of Reference.

And our Frame of Reference, to us, is who Jesus is. It’s what he is supposed to be like, act like and look like. And if anyone comes along and challenges our Frame of Reference, we bristle and feel violated and challenged. Yet, that seems to be when we grow the most in our spiritual journey.

For example, many people picture what Jesus may have looked like in a specific way. The children’s Bible you had as a young person might affect your Frame of Reference (a smiley, cartoon Jesus). Or, the flannel board in Sunday school class might be what you think Jesus looks like (two-dimensional, no emotion). If you are like me, and became a Christian later in life, your Frame of Reference on Jesus’ physical appearance might be affected by movies or art. You might think Jesus looked like this:

headofchrist.jpg

 

For many, this is what Jesus looks like. This famous painting has affected our Frame of Reference of who Jesus really may be.

But, often times, our Frame of Reference could be wrong. Think of the above picture: Would Jesus have been white? Would Jesus have had such pretty hair?  Would Jesus have been this attractive? (think of the passage in Isaiah, where it says he had “no beauty…to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”

Here is a picture of what Jesus could have really looked like. This is a computer generated graphic, that was created by scientists. They took a 1st century skull of a Jewish male and added, via computer enhancement, muscle tone and a layer of fat cells and skin and hair and eyes, all indicative of the culture. This might be the best picture we have of Jesus:

jesusbbc.jpg

 

This image of Jesus challenges most of our Frames of Reference. He looks like Saddam Hussein. It makes us uncomfortable and bristle when we think that this may have been what Jesus looked like.

Not that his appearance should matter to us. But, this does springboard us into other questions:

  • What other influences have shaped my Frame of Reference as to who Jesus is? What he did? What he looks like?
  • Are these influences scriptural?
  • Do these influences affect how I follow Christ?
  • Do I hang onto these influences because I am more comfortable with my own Jesus–the one I have created within my Frame of Reference? Or can I step outside of my Frame of Reference and see a more real Jesus?

Thoughts?

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20 thoughts on “What Does Jesus Look Like?

  1. Like most, I have to admit to having grown up knowing a “Western” Jesus and subconsciously accepting the depiction of Him in art as a reasonable likeness, because SO many pictures were similar, so somehow I figured someone had perhaps originally drawn him in some way – silly, but there you go. Years on, and being much more fundamental now than then, I now abhor the Westernisation of Jesus – although perhaps that’s unfair as it would appear that He is to all cultures one of their own, black, brown, white, Chinese, African, British – anything but the Jew He IS. By doing so, I think we are in danger of making Him like us rather than our trying to be like Him – we assume He would agree with our views because we call ourselves by His Name or consider ourselves His, and some sadly have taken that to an extreme whereby they see no problem with their antisemitism or other errant attitude towards His people to whom He will return!! Ultimately like the Jews we should never try to put a face to Him, because to do so is to try and picture God, something forbidden in the OT and not without good reason – once you start doing that, you then start having pictures around of “Him” that you use while praying to create some sort of connection – in other words you rapidly degenerate into idolatry no matter how you try to justify it otherwise.

    Good post and excellent points. Something more of those in religions that are so into their icons and images should think extremely carefully about!! Blessings, TKR

  2. Thanks for visiting…and great points (also, great blog you got going!)

    You state that we have made Jesus like us rather than our trying to be like him. And I think you are right on.

    We have this little box we have labeled our “Jesus Box.” And we try to take the Jesus we read about in the Bible and force him into OUR box. The parts that don’t fit, we ignore or explain away. The parts that we like are the parts we adopt.

    When I preached a sermon with a point similar to the point of this post, I showed several images of Christ where he was depicted as black, white, Hispanic, Chinese, and one that was obviously old and perhaps Greek Orthodox. You should have seen the expressions on some of the faces in the congregation.

    We just have our Frame of Reference…but that seems to be so dangerous.

    How do we get rid of our Jesus Box and our Frame of Reference? Share some ideas.

  3. Thanks Brandon. I think for me, the only way I’ve personally been able to even remotely try to do so, is to continually listen to Him speaking through the Gospels. He regularly states that He and the Father are One, and thus I suppose in some respects Jesus isn’t even a Jew, which was quite an eye opener for me. Then, working back through the OT, I listen to God continually telling His people then to not make any image of him, even in their heads (I think?), and wonder how they managed to do that when some of them like Moses actually met Him face to face, so had to have some picture in their heads no matter how hard they tried. While much of the time I manage to not have a face before me when praying, sometimes I find that not having such an ‘image’ actually makes me feel somewhat distant from God – another danger, because in feeling somewhat remote, I then start thinking about images of Jesus again. Spiritual discipline is the only method I know of to stay true to this requirement, but like all other sins, it still creeps in. Just thought of another flip side to this one tho – the disciples and all of those who met with Jesus while He walked this earth, obviously DID have a face to put to His Name – wonder how they got round it, and whether Jesus ever advised them on the topic – intriguing there’s no mention of it given the importance in some ways. Could almost start a rabbit trail with this one eh? :)). Romayne

  4. Fascinating, your connection between our pictures of Jesus and the creating of idols.

    I don’t know that I view it that extremely. Idol worship, to me…is attempting to take the Creator and minimize Him into a creation. For example, a statue. If we create a statue and say, “This is God” we would be taking God and trying to reduce Him into mud and clay and water that we shaped with our own hands.

    An idea of what Jesus looked like, though, may not fall under this concept of idol worship. But, we agree in the statement that our images of what he may have looked like might be wrong…and that leads us into other facets of Jesus (greater facets, if you will, than of his appearance) that may be misled as well.

    Does ANY of that make sense? I sound fairly intelligent today!

  5. Pingback: Top Posts of May « MyNameIsBrandon.com

  6. I have never really thought that His appearance was of much importance, except that we all like to have something to physically identify with. Over the years, the Spirit has been teaching me that the heart is of much more importance. Some of the the best sighted people that I know are blind, and some of the wisest and loving people that I know are labled by todays standard as mildly retarded, and some of the richest people that I know live in very humble circumstances.

  7. When you love someone, is it not natural to want to know everything you can about that person? To imagine what our Lord, whom I love, looks like is a blessing which gives my errant mind something pleasant to ponder. In the doing I am neither downsizing Him or any of the other sinful directions some of the previous commentors mentioned.
    He was in fact a man, with a physical form which I will some day know for myself, personally, and in great detail. To create a sculpture or painting of an image I believe is in the likeness of our God serves for me to focus not on the piece of stone or smear of paint, but is an inspiration for worship which leads me into His presense.
    We say, “Holy Bible” and many worship and reverance it even as we all fail to practice what we say we love contained within its covers, has the book then become an idol with no power?
    I wait in anticipation of the day when my Lord and I are talking, He will laugh with me about how this child like face I created of Him sight unseen was hanging on His refridgerator. Upon it He will have placed a gold star for effort, and another jewel in my crown which I will give back to the King!
    While it is true it is unimportant, intention is.
    In Christ’s Love I pray these words greet you with the love I hoped for.
    Doug

  8. The book of Revelation has a great a pretty good description of him, right down to the the sound of his voice Rev. 1:14 that will be unreal, ever been to Niagara Falls ?

  9. I’ve thought about this one a lot, and I’ve come to a decision. When the Spirit was moving over me during the time I was Born into a new life, I was all happy, and I loved everyone regardless of color. I was not hindered by the way I was raised or what I had learned from life. I was just filled with this amazing love for the human race. Color I did not see, when I was filled with the Spirit. I try to remember how I felt and what I’ve learned. It does not matter what color Jesus was, or how he looked. God doesn’t look at people for what they look like, but He looks at the condition of their hearts. We should try to do the same – try at least. People are people. Here’s a little activity I want you to do. Imagine that everyone in the world was removed – all humans – and replaced by an alien race that had taken over the planet. Now, the only human left on Earth is you. These aliens take over, rob our art and music and change it into this awful rendition of how they think it should be. SUDDENLY! You get lonely! Now, that man or woman in the grocery store is no longer standing beside you. That’s right. No more humans. You’re the last human. These aliens are cold and emotionless. They have no concept of love or laughing. No concept of humanity. You are all alone in this cold world without your human enemies, your friends, your family. There is no one in all of humanity who is there to talk with. Well, people, I was there once, and I can tell you that it taught me something. Love each other! Love each other like it’s your last day! It’s a nightmare when they’re all gone. I missed the songs you gave me. I missed the laughs and the tears. I missed my enemies and the struggle. I missed the hope and the despair of humanity. I missed the human being, and I learned like never before to celebrate what a human being is. Very few people witness something like what I have been through, but I can tell you that Jesus loves all of us regardless of our skin color, background, fame, wealth, power. He died for all of us just the same, and His love was a gift to mankind. So, today, let us celebrate HUMANITY! Let us try to love one another each day and appreciate one another for our differences. Most of all, let us not judge each other, but help each other, because in the end, all we have is ONE ANOTHER. God Bless You All.

    B

  10. The whole notion of putting a face to our savior is really not important to what really is important. If he states in the Bible that his disciples should focus and not put a face to who he is , then we must do just that . Us as humans naturally have the ability to familiarize ourselves with an image, or a figure in our minds in in order to deal with the unknown. But lets tell the truth , our subconsciousness allows us , even though we may try to fight it , allows us to give in to think of the image that we have in our minds to revert to when we worship him. Think of God in this way, he doesn’t care about appearance the way that we as humans do. He wouldn’t create so many different shades, features , heights, sizes, etc. of humans if appearance is so important . All humans regardless of ethnicity, size , height, or anything else have an important part in God’s plans for this world .
    Like in a recipe, there are many different ingredients ( us and humans) that must be included into the main portion to complete the finishing main dish ( Our Savior).
    With that in mind, we must care for and treat everyone with respect as God had done in order to create and place them here on earth.
    Again, GOD DOESNT CARE ABOUT RACE , SO WHY SO WE?

  11. The thought of God loving me so much that he gave me a chance to live on earth , and with out being the type of ruler that forces us to follow him speaks VOLUMES about who he is . He loves us all so much to allow us to CHOOSE whether or not to worship him and have him in our lives.
    Tell me ,.. what ruler do you know would do those things? As I type this blog, tears roll down my face continuously and a warm filling fills my heart with an unexplainable feeling that gives me so much love , happiness, and so much thanks for who he is . Without him , we ALL are nothing . We must continuously remember that we are made by God and that he didn’t have to give us life , but he loves us all so much that he did.

  12. I think it’s interesting that the computer generated photo depicts Jesus without longer hair. I realize that they were attempting to create the face, but let’s face it – we all mentally picture Jesus with longer hair.

    In my opinion, those who do need an image should look to the Shroud of Turin. I believe the cloth is the burial and resurrection cloth of Jesus. I must make it very, very clear that I do NOT need to believe in the Shroud for my faith. I just think that those closest to Jesus would have picked up that cloth and kept, just as I kept my little sister’s last shirt worn when she died. I would often hold it after that and smell it because I could smell her on it. Now, the Shroud was probably covered with spices so they probably did not smell the Shroud. But having the cloth to hold on to afterward is love, warmth, and a feeling of closeness. The image of Jesus in the Shroud, if the Shroud of Turin is indeed genuine, gives the correct image, complete with blood trickling down His forehead, a swollen eye, a broken nose, and blood in His beard.

    Linda, Disciple for Jesus Christ

  13. Linda,

    I’m not disagreeing with you on the Shroud of Turin, but I have some scripture I just read that makes me believe the SOT is not from Christ. I want to first make it very clear that I at one time very much believed the SOT was legit. However, the following scripture would say otherwise:

    John 20:3-7
    Then Kefa and the other talmid started for the tomb. They both ran, but the other talmid outran Kefa and reached the tomb first. Stooping down, he saw the linen burial-sheets lying there but did not go in. Then, following him, Shim’on Kefa arrived, entered the tomb and saw the burial-sheets lying there, also the cloth that had been around his head, lying not with the sheets but in a separate place and still folded up.

    Please note that I tried in keeping with the tradition of this website, and decided to write the actual names of the disciples (or talmid as it is pronounced in Aramaic).

    Linda, this particular scripture points out that there was a separate sheet used for Yeshua’s (Jesus’) head. That would mean the single piece of cloth that is the shroud of Turin could not belong to Yeshua. Not only that, and not to burst your bubble, but the logic of someone holding onto the cloth does not make much sense either, because he was buried in it. Once he rose from the dead his talmid and mother would have been so overjoyed with his presence that there would be no room for nostalgia with regards to the shroud.

    Yeshua was also a rabbi (or teacher), and was as Jewish as they came. Brandon’s scriptural reference that says, “no beauty…to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him,” suggests that he would appear normal to Jews also (because that scripture was written by a Jewish man. Therefore, Yeshua would have had short hair and a long beard (as rabbi’s do in the Jewish tradition).

    I hope this helps some of you with your spiritual journeys. Shalom!

    ~Shawn

  14. i have to say i dont believe Jesus looked the way we have been taught in the western church through pictures of paintings that He did look like. Isaiah 53:2 says ” He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” the pictures and paintings we have today protray a “hollywood” or a desirable Jesus conformed to what we think a revered God should look like. I think when those of us that believe do get to heaven we will be either surprised or affirmed in the belief that what we have as a image of Jesus is nothing close to what He really appears to be.

  15. Jesus and christinaity is an evil jewish myth that the sicarii created to convince neighbouring roman colonies to join them in the fight against the roman empire and try to expell them from their land and later on take over their empire… and they succeeded.

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