A short reflection on what Jesus looked like...
We like to know what everything looks like these days; this includes Jesus. I know this because I discovered that many people search in the Google search engine for; what did Jesus look like?
There are no accurate images of Him available today. Although Jesus is well known to have been a 1st century Jewish Rabbi, we here in the UK are more familiar with images that give him a northern European appearance.
However, this is not the same as depictions in Eastern (Greek) Orthodox Churches. Their church icons, and the domes and apses, portray Jesus with a distinctly middle-eastern look, with sallow skin and the beard and hair of an orthodox Jew. This is also the case in the famous Byzantine-style mosaics in Sicily.
What is astonishing is that the image on the shroud of Turin (whatever its origins) is entirely in accordance with what would have been typical of a 1st-century Jewish Rabbi; the clothing would have been typical too.
Over the generations, Jesus has also been portrayed as various biblical characters, such as the Good Shepherd from Psalm 23 and Moses in flowing robes, long hair and beard, but these are imaginative spiritual characterisations.
Cultural settings have also influenced the graphical presentation of Jesus in the modern world. In Christian countries worldwide, we have white, brown and black Jesus’s. But these are meant to signify that Christ is in us, and we are in Christ – and we are who we are within our different cultures.
In her book What Did Jesus Look Like, Joan Taylor argues the case for Jesus having an unexceptional look alongside the people of his time and culture.
She said; Proper spiritually and morally excellent human beings do not necessarily look beautiful outwardly, and their attractiveness does not form part of their capacity to impress.
Jesus may well have been physically unexceptional – but he certainly emanated the presence of the Spirit within him because it is not so much what Jesus looked like, but how he made people feel by what he said and did. He was spiritual perfection, which people who met him sensed in his very being.
Some sensed the divine in him through his words, miracles and acts of kindness, while others felt threatened by him as he challenged their status quo.
All these years later, the same applies; some sense the divine in Jesus and others don’t want their lives changed. However, his power and mystery are as magnetic and majestic today as they ever were.
PS: Joan Taylor’s book, What Did Jesus Look Like, provides all the information you could possibly want or need on this subject, it is beautifully illustrated and a pleasure to own.