Sometimes I look for images of Jesus just to see how people think he may have looked. It’s one of my pastoral hobbies. Every few years there’s a new stylistic trend that is revealed in artwork and scientific reproductions of his face. Over time, Jesus has grown much darker in skin tone and more ethnic in features. He has gone from looking like this very Irish Jesus with fair, pale skin and reddish hair with bright green or blue eyes, to looking more like the Judean Jew that he was.
(Image courtesy of uweb.ucsb.edu)
Popular Mechanics, of all things, published an article in 2002 about how Jesus may have looked utilizing forensic evidence. The article is called “The Real Face of Jesus.” It proposed this as the real face of Jesus:
(Image courtesy of popularmechanics.com)
Personally, that face look a lot older than early thirties to me, but I am sure that the ethnicity is probably closer to the truth than our classical image courtesy of the Renaissance. I think we all ask ourselves at some point if we would know Jesus if we saw him. We would like to assume we would. Perhaps it would be his pose, his gestures, his glow of divinity. Whatever it is, we like to think that, as Christians, we would have some inner insight that would grant us the ability to identify Jesus. Why should we be so sure? Even the disciples could not immediately recognize the risen Christ. They needed additional clues, linguistic and physical cues that revealed him to be Jesus.
I think we have the opposite problem. I think we see Jesus all the time and do not realize it. Jesus is in those who are blessed in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-11). We can find Jesus in the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, and those who are reviled and persecuted for Christ’ sake. We see those people everyday, and we are too often blind to them. It doesn’t truly matter what the human face of Jesus looked like when we cannot see the face of Jesus in the humans we encounter. The next time you stand face to face with someone consider that it might be Jesus peering back at you. Act accordingly.