“He is risen.” Luke 16:6
Living in modern times, we often speculate upon the Second Coming of Jesus. The Messiah’s First Coming was foretold for many generations before He was born in a manger in Bethlehem and crucified at Passover over 2,000 years ago.
His coming was foretold as early as Genesis, Exodus and Psalms. The Books of Isaiah and Jeremiah have the most interesting predictions. As the predictions were well-recorded, the enemies of Jesus accounted Him as nothing more than a well-rehearsed actor.
Most of the predictions of the Old Testament have their counterpart in the New Testament. On one matter, however, the New Testament is pretty much silent: Jesus’ appearance. Other than stating that he had black, curly hair like lamb’s wool, there is not much information about what He looked like.
The scriptures of the Old Testament, specifically Isaiah 53:1-4, are more revealing; Isaiah 53:2 has no corresponding New Testament report:
“Who hath believed? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? 2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground; he hath no form or comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrow: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.”
So what if Jesus didn’t look like Robert Powell or Max Von Sydow? Or maybe the early Christians had a different notion of what made a man handsome than we do today. By all accounts of Abraham Lincoln20, he was considered an ugly man. Yet if we look at the pictures of him when he was young, we see a rather good-looking man in the rugged sense of the word.
The silence of the Bible on Jesus’ appearance says nothing about Jesus that we don’t already know. We wouldn’t care. Or would we? Did those who established the canon of the Bible fear humankind’s oldest prejudice and leave the matter of his appearance out? Or was Isaiah right in his prediction that a corrupted, image-conscious world would scorn a savior who did not have the face and physique of the Greek God, Apollo? Did His appearance count for nothing when Jesus was healing the sick, but matter plenty when His popularity turned?
How much worse we are today, how much more superficial we are, now that we have photographs, television, movies, YouTube, Skype, and Facebook. In Lincoln’s time, though they accounted him ugly, they still listened to him, despite a high-pitched voice. How will Jesus fare in a world so much more vain and wanton than the world in which He was crucified?
His appearance is the final test for humankind. This is a world that will certainly not listen to any man (and especially any woman) who cannot pass the Hollywood screen test. We do not see the good in anyone whose appearance is “uncomely”, bloated, misshapen, imperfect, as it were. In job interviews, an applicant is judged within the first 30 seconds of the meeting. No soul-searching there.
Jesus will return to a blinded world that thinks He has come back for us to put Him on trial again. The wicked have been putting Him on trial these 2,000 years now and still they don’t get it. His appearance – and His appearance – will be the final test. Since He did not die, and was granted eternal life for His sacrifice; indeed, He is eternal life itself, Emmanuel,“God with us”; He will look much the same as He did during his mission in Life. If Isaiah is right, we’re in for a big surprise.
Here we’ve been thinking He looks like the imprinted image on the Shroud of Turin, notwithstanding the Bible’s very explicit description of black, curly hair. We don’t deserve to know what He looks like. It is not for us to judge Jesus, as though He were trying out for American Idol. We can’t see past our mirrors, whereas He will be able to see right down into our souls.
When that day comes, you’d better hope you’re looking your best.