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:
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:
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?