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What Was Jesus Like as a Human?
Good News Magazine
May 1985
Volume: VOL. XXXII, NO. 5
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What Was Jesus Like as a Human?
Clayton D Steep

Don't be too sure you know! Here is an accurate description, straight from the Bible.

   It may come as a surprise to some that the sad, long-haired, weak looking Jesus portrayed in most pictures with a white robe and a halo is not the Jesus of the Bible!
   The pictures and statues depict "another Jesus" (II Corinthians 11:4)!
   There is no single passage of Scripture giving a complete description of Jesus the man. But many scattered verses allow us glimpses of Him as He really was. Here are some of them.
   Be sure to look these verses up in your own Bible. Analyze them and ask yourself if you have envisioned Jesus as He really was.

Jesus the man

   Jesus was not especially handsome (Isaiah 53:2). He could walk right through a crowd without being recognized (Luke 4:30). Judas had to point Him out with a kiss (Matthew 26:48-49). His hair was short (see accompanying box), but there is a possibility He had a beard (Isaiah 50:6).
   Jesus was the elder brother to several younger brothers and sisters (Matthew 13:55-56). As a child He was exceptionally bright (Luke 2:46-47); as an adult He amazed the scholars of His day (John 7:15).
   He was no physical weakling. Since Jesus was a carpenter (Mark 6:3), His hands must have been calloused and His shoulders big. As there were no electric tools back then, sawing and drilling were done by hand. This was hard work. A physically weak person could not survive the Roman scourge (Mark 15:15), or fast for 40 days and then go on to win the most decisive battle of all time, with Satan himself (Matthew 4:1-11).
   The Bible indicates Jesus had His own house in Capernaum (Mark 2:1, Matthew 13:36, 57) — He was not a destitute vagabond. And His house was large enough to hold quite a few people (the fact that Jesus' family was "outside" means the group of people that He was addressing was inside the house Matthew 12:46, 13:1). Being a carpenter, He could have built it Himself.
   Jesus was familiar with the ways of wild animals and plants (Matthew 6:26-30), as well as the principles of agriculture (Matthew 13:1-43) and caring for domestic animals (John 10:1-5, Luke 13:15, 14:5). By observing the elements, He knew what kind of weather to expect (Matthew 16:2-3).
   Tanned by the Judean sun, Jesus was accustomed to walking long distances until He was sweaty and thirsty and weary (John 4:6-7). There were no doubt times when it was necessary during His travels to sleep out under the stars or wherever shelter could be found (Matthew 8:20).

A man of many facets

   Those who imagine only a "gentle Jesus, meek and mild" have forgotten how He twice chased the money changers out of the Temple (John 2:13-17, Mark 11:15-17). Dumping their money on the floor, He pushed over their tables and upset their chairs. While the flabbergasted money changers scrambled to get out of His way, Jesus used a small whip to drive out the frightened oxen and bleating sheep.
   The same eyes in which the money changers saw the fire of righteous anger flash (John 2:17) overflowed on other occasions with tears of tenderness and sorrow (John 11:35, Isaiah 53:3). Jesus was full of compassion (Matthew 9:36).
   He was fond of children (Mark 10:15-16), and children were fond of Him (Matthew 21:15). He loved to be with people (Mark 6:34, Luke 9:11) and to serve them (Acts 10:38). But He always managed to get away by Himself so He could maintain contact with His Father in heaven (Matthew 14:22-23).
   Jesus understood the poor (Luke 21:1-4) and the rich (Luke 12:13-34). He comprehended the problems of the laborer as well as the employer (Matthew 20:1-16). He knew the true principles of economics and how to handle wealth (Matthew 23:23, Luke 19:12-26). And He paid taxes, too (Matthew 17:24-25, 22:17-21). Jesus ate with publicans and sinners (Matthew 9:10-11) and with Pharisees (Luke 7:36). He knew how to conduct Himself in any social situation. He dressed well. His clothing was of such value that Roman soldiers gambled for it (Matthew 27:35).
   It was at a wedding celebration of a well-to-do family that Jesus performed His first miracle. They had drunk all the wine. So Jesus changed water into more wine — perhaps 100 to 150 gallons of it (John 2:1-11). Jesus enjoyed good food and good drink (Luke 7:33-34). But He always exercised perfect self-control.
   Jesus had a powerful, loud voice that could be heard by multitudes long before microphones were invented (Matthew 15:10). When it was appropriate He spoke with a note of humor (Luke 13:32, Mark 3:17).
   Jesus loved life and lived it abundantly. But He never let anything or anybody interfere with proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and doing His Father's will (Matthew 6:33, John 15:10).

A dynamic example for us

   Jesus of Nazareth — God in the flesh — a teacher, a dependable friend, a warm, well-balanced, dynamic person. Priests, harlots, businessmen, lepers, children, Roman soldiers, Jews, Samaritans, widows, rulers of the synagogue, sinners He was loved by some, hated by some, feared by some, respected by all. In every circumstance of His varied life He obeyed the laws of His Father, setting an example for us to follow.

Did Jesus Have Long Hair?

   Short hair for men has been with us far longer than most realize. It was the dominant, accepted mode for men in the time of Jesus Christ.
   Pick up any good, illustrated history book on the period and you will see the evidence: All statues of Roman legionnaires show them with closely cropped hair. A Roman with long hair was an oddity.
   All the Roman emperors before, during and after the time of Christ, from Julius Caesar to Trajan, wore short hair. And the emperor set the pattern in style and mode of dress for the whole empire.
   Before the coming of the Romans, the Hellenistic Greek culture dominated the eastern Mediterranean area, and Judea by no means escaped. Even in Christ's day, a large segment of the Jewish population was Greek-speaking and Hellenistic in outlook (John 12:20, Acts 6:1). The Greek Hellenistic style for men was to wear the hair short.
   What about the non-Hellenistic Jews? The Jewish Talmud, which is anti-Hellenistic, states that all priests should have their hair cut once every 30 days. These Jews were aware of the statement in Ezekiel 44:20: "Nor shall they shave their heads, nor let their hair grow long."
   Statues and other reproductions of Jewish men from Christ's period again point to short hair as the style.
   Some have mistakenly assumed that Christ was under a Nazirite vow. This was not the case.
   Jesus Christ came from Nazareth. The early Christians were sometimes called Nazarenes. But neither of these words has anything to do with a Nazirite vow. Notice that Jesus drank wine (Matthew 11:19). He also, on occasion, touched a dead body (Matthew 9:25). Both these actions were forbidden to anyone under a Nazirite vow (Numbers 6:3, 6).
   Now I Corinthians 11:14 becomes clear: "Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair it is a dishonor to him?"
   Those under a Nazirite vow let their hair grow long as a token of humiliation. It was a shame. Notice, too, that as soon as the time period of the Nazirite vow was over, the one who undertook the vow was to shave his head (Numbers 6:18)!
   No, Jesus did not have long hair. He looked like any other normal Jew of His day. On a number of occasions He was able to pass through crowds because He looked just like anyone else (Luke 4:30, John 8:59, 10:39). — Judas had to use a special sign, a kiss, to point out to Jesus' enemies which one He was (Matthew 26:48-49). Judas would not have had to do this if Jesus had looked any different from the average Jew of His day.

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Good News MagazineMay 1985VOL. XXXII, NO. 5
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