What Does Jesus Really Look Like?
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Isaiah 53:3
From the impressions made on the walls of the catacombs of Rome to the mansions of the wealthy, Jesus Christ has been the inspiration for the world’s great art, and the face of Jesus has been the inspiration of all the world’s great artists. Rubens, Raphael, DaVinci, Titian, Michelangelo, and thousands of others, have all taken brush and pallet in hand and painted the face of Jesus as they pictured it in their mind. The painting of the face of Christ done by Warner Sallman hangs in many homes, yet, when I finally cross heaven’s threshold, for some reason, I do not expect Christ to look just like the person portrayed by the artists.
Visit St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and there you will find the famous painting by Holman Hunt where Christ stands at the door and knocks. But what does Christ really look like?
If you really want an answer, you must turn to the pages of the Gospels and read what His biographers wrote. These were men who walked with Jesus for three years and experienced the impact of His life on theirs. “But did they actually tell us what Jesus looked like?” you may be asking yourself. No, but they did give to all mankind profiles of the face of Jesus, profiles which allow us to see beneath the actual physiognomy and discover the real man.
The images which your mind’s eye may develop may be different from mine, but the person will be the same. As I read the Gospels and ask myself what Jesus looked like, the first profile that comes together in my mind’s eye is a profile of compassion. Jesus reached out to men and women neglected and ignored by others, and felt what they felt. He suffered as they suffered. He touched the untouchables such as the leper, the widow, the blind beggar, the outcasts of society‑‑men and women with whom I can identify.
Another profile that becomes apparent is that of tenderness. Unlike weakness, tenderness reveals sensitivity. He related to children, yet was a man’s man who could take a whip and drive the money changers from the temple. His face undoubtedly revealed strength of character and firmness. No weak‑kneed, emasculated character who had lace on his handkerchief, Jesus had depth of personality that revealed real love for men and women.
Other profiles I see are purity, suffering, compelling love, justice, empathy and a score of other virtues and emotions. When I see Jesus I do not expect to see a halo about His head or a crown of thorns on His brow. Neither do I expect someone to take me by the hand and lead me over, saying, “Sala, I want to introduce you to Jesus.” You see, at the age of 12 someone introduced me to Him; and though I have never seen Him in the flesh, I know Him, for He has walked with me and guided my life. John, the same one who wrote the Gospel that bears his name, said, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2, KJV).
Jesus Christ has become all things to all races and all people, the reflection of our own faces, the image of ourselves, and rightly so. But to all, He is the Son of God who became flesh and lived among us. He’s the glory of the Father, the second Person of the Trinity, the One who ever lives to intercede for those who will believe in Him.
How do you picture Jesus? Make sure that what comes to your mind, comes firsthand.
Resource reading: Isaiah 53:1-5.