People the world over seem convinced they know what Jesus looked like. His supposed likeness is depicted in all manner of religious art, from sculpture to stained glass, and oil paintings to charcoal sketches. However, little of what is assumed about His appearance is verifiable.
No one on earth has actually seen Jesus in nearly two thousand years. Inasmuch as the apostle Paul claimed to be Christ's final witness (1st Corinthians 15:3-8), all claims to have seen the Lord since then must be discounted as fraudulent. Jesus never sat for a portrait, so any attempt to illustrate His form is highly speculative in nature.
What little can be discerned from the scriptures regarding the Lord's physical image generally proves the inaccuracy of artist's renderings. In most artwork, Christ is portrayed as a rather handsome man, but Isaiah prophesied, "He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him" (Isaiah 53:2). The beauty of Jesus is His message, not His face or body.
The striking figure rendered by many artists wears long hair, but Jesus almost certainly did not. An apostle of Christ wrote "if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him" (1st Corinthians 11:14).
He does seem to have worn a beard (Isaiah 50:6), but there is no telling its length.
Having worked as a carpenter long before the invention of power tools (Mark 6:3), it is reasonable to conclude Jesus had muscular arms at the outset of His ministry, but without that exercise, the muscles likely atrophied somewhat by the time of His death a few years later.
Varying from place to place, Christ is occasionally shown to have blond hair, or black skin, or an Asian appearance. All this seems unlikely. Jesus was a Jew (John 4:9). His ancestry through the tribe of Judah is recorded in detail (Luke 3:23-38). Simple probability would suggest His hair and eyes were dark in color, while His skin would have been a ruddy complexion, like His ancestor David (1st Samuel 16:12; 17:42).
On earth, Jesus was a plain figure, with short hair and a beard of unspecified length. He may have been somewhat muscular and probably had features common to most Jews. To suggest details of His appearance which cannot be ascertained from the scriptures is to intrude into things God has chosen not to reveal to us (Deuteronomy 29:29), things of no consequence spiritually.
However Christ may have looked on earth, He does not look that way now. Having risen from the dead and ascended into heaven, He no longer occupies a natural body of dust, but a spiritual body in heaven, glorious and incorruptible (1st Corinthians 15:35-53). Those who overcome sin and are saved in the gospel of Christ are promised this same bodily change.
To remain fixated on outward appearance is dangerous indeed. Jesus taught, "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment" (John 7:24). Those who are satisfied by a pleasant countenance will surely be deceived, "For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light" (2nd Corinthians 11:14).
Christians should not be so superficially minded, "For we walk by faith, not by sight" (2nd Corinthians 5:7), and faith pertains to "things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). We serve an invisible God (Romans 1:20) who is not "worshiped with men's hands" (Acts 17:25). "We ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man's devising" (Acts 17:29).
By Bryan Matthew Dockens
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