There are a thousand faces of Jesus...
Everyone has a different image of Jesus in their mind. I didn’t realize how important the image of Jesus is to people around the world until a friend asked me what I thought Jesus looked like. Based on my memory of Jesus, who appeared to me in a vision in 1984 (click here to read the story behind the vision), I sent her this picture that I had recently found that came as close as any that I had seen. The piercing blue-gray eyes are the same; they seemed to look right through to your soul, know everything about you, and still love you unconditionally. The mouth is a bit too full and the beard not full enough, I told her. However, this picture is very close to the man in my vision that appeared to me daily, and lasted for seven long months. You can read about it in my book, The Disciple.
Everyone has their own picture in their mind of what Jesus looked like. When my friend saw this picture, she was aghast, and asked me not to share it. She said that it would “frighten” people. I assume that is because this is an apparently strong, self-confident, masculine man, which is much different than the mental image most people have of a meek and humble Jesus.
Her comment was a head-scratcher for me, because Jesus was a powerful enough man to walk by the sea of Galilee, see a group of fishermen (complete strangers!) hauling in their nets, pause, speak to them, and have them drop everything to follow him. Think about that for a moment.
“Of course,” you say, “he was the Son of God. Surely they are going to follow him.” Wrong, he wasn’t the Son of God to them, he was just a stranger walking along the shore, like hundreds of others that had passed that way during the week. But when he stopped and spoke to them about his vision of God and the world that he saw and could feel within himself, they looked at one another in amazement. One-by-one, the fishermen laid down their nets, left their fishing, and walked away with him.
His strong voice and his powerfully built body (hard from lifting lumber and working with his hands all day long), his rugged good looks, and his unusual eyes attracted these rough-and-tumble men that earned their livings by throwing and hauling nets for long hours, day and night.
Let’s put this in terms that we can understand today. Picture a man walking by a construction site and stopping to talk to a group of steel workers grappling with a heavy load of rebar. They are hot, sweaty, and worn out. Would they respond to a dreamy (dare I say wimpy?) and whimsical stranger with sweetness on his face?
I doubt it. Having been an architect, on construction sites for many years of my life, I can think of a few 4-letter words that he would have elicited. Yet that soft, meek Jesus is the Jesus many of us grew up with, know, and recognize as the "real" Jesus, isn’t it?
On the other hand, perhaps the Jesus you know is the Jesus with the bleeding heart found in thousands of Catholic churches around the world? Is that what he looked like?
Everyone has their own picture in their mind when it comes to Jesus, and it is impossible to find a picture that exactly matches whatever we might think that he looked like, but the picture at the top of this post is as close as I’ve found to date for me. When he was on earth, he was a strong, warm, and loving man, appealing to both men and women.
As you read the stories in the Gospels, you will find that Jesus often had a retinue of women following him. They certainly thought that he was a powerful, charismatic, and handsome enough man to break with tradition (at their own risk), and followed him in the open from village to village. So much so, in fact, that they not only followed him, but some of them supported him financially as well. The story of the women (including Mary Magdalene) who followed him, is a subject for another post in the future.
There are other pictures (literally thousands on the internet). They range from the picture that appears on the Shroud of Turin (purportedly from the “negative” of the burial cloth supposedly used to wrap Jesus), to a computer generated picture from a forensic pathologist, and a black Jesus. They are all different and have changed dramatically throughout the millennia. Here are but a few to give you the idea.
So, what did Jesus really look like? You probably have a favorite image of him, so, here’s a request: send me a picture that best exemplifies your idea of what Jesus looked like. Attach it to your return comment on Facebook. I look forward to seeing your own personal vision of Jesus.
Or, does it really matter what he looked like?