The Real Jesus
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The Real Jesus

Chapter 6

What Jesus Looked Like

   What did Jesus look like?
   Scripture indicates Jesus was neither outstandingly tall, nor outstandingly short; He was therefore of the average height of the average Jewish young man of His day. Research suggests that men were somewhat larger then than they subsequently became during the Middle Ages; consequently Jesus could have been between 5' 7" and 5' 10".
   His physical stature would have been similar to any other average laboring person who had spent his growing years lifting, tugging, pushing, pulling, carrying, and enjoying hard work out of doors.
   The Bible states that the body is the "temple of the Holy Spirit," indicating that Jesus must have had a strong, healthy body. Furthermore, the Bible reveals that Jesus was made in the exact similitude of the Father.
   Since Jesus in His prehuman life and God the Father did the planning and designing of the human body, it is logical to conclude that Jesus had a flawless or perfect human form.
   This, by itself, is not necessarily unique. There are many millions who are so blessed with that right combination of muscular development and symmetry so as to appear perfectly and equally proportioned, yet without the bulging muscles of a professional weight lifter or the opposite extreme of gawky thinness.
   Jesus looked like what He was: a commonplace Jew of first-century Palestine. And as such, Jesus could have been either blond, redheaded, or dark-headed. There is no way to really tell, since members of the family of Judah can regularly exhibit any of this range of complexions and/or colors of eye or hair.
   If we may speculate, it may be reasonable to postulate that Jesus could have looked somewhat like his physical ancestor, David.
   There is evidence that David was "ruddy" in complexion, meaning he was fair skinned, and probably red haired. David also wore a beard. He was shorter in stature than his other brothers, yet was well muscled and quite physically strong.
   The picture of David as the young dark-haired lad with a sling in his hand that is popular in some family Bibles may be erroneous according to the biblical descriptions of the man, but then an exact picture would be impossible to draw, since there is no physical description in sufficient enough detail.
   If following the reasoning that Jesus was from David's own lineage, and that David was in fact a type of Jesus Christ, if there is any such "type and anti-type," perhaps Jesus could also have been fair-skinned and red-haired (freckle-faced also?).
   Of course in one sense, it is not important what Jesus looked like or what He wore! It frankly doesn't matter what His skin color, skin texture, color of eyes and hair were! It doesn't matter what His clothes were made of. What does matter is what Jesus said, what He taught, what He promised!
   God does not honor one skin color, one facial "look," one style of clothing. God created all human beings to have an equally enormous ultimate potential regardless of external appearances.
   So the only thing about Jesus' appearance that is somewhat important is that you understand that the cherished concepts of the "Jesus" of the pictures and movies are false.
   As we grow older, we come to realize there are "types" of facial and bodily builds, and we tend to categorize people we have met and known into those "types"!
   Some individuals are noticeably outstanding because of either physical attractiveness or ugliness — and we tend to remember them because of their most distinguishing characteristics: beautiful eyes, large ears, protruding chin, high cheekbones, perfect teeth, a unique smile, an unusual nose. Some people project the picture of absolute beauty in perfect proportions, others must live with the knowledge that they are physically ugly.
   Jesus was somewhere in between. He was that type of person who, though reasonably attractive in the sense of having a pleasant enough face, did not call attention to Himself because of any outstanding characteristics. Jesus was neither "beautiful" nor ugly. He was commonplace, quite ordinary. He had the kind of face which could easily become lost in a crowd. He looked average, normal, regular — an everyday kind of person.
   Doubtlessly, Jesus' eyes could become as fiercely intense as any other human being in a moment of anger. (Yes, Jesus became angry on occasion, though never from the normal human stimuli, never for the normal reasons and never with the normal consequences.)
   Jesus' eyes could radiate and express the full range of human emotions from amusement and good humor, to pain and sorrow, to deep thoughtfulness and profound compassion. Jesus' face and countenance would change with His changing moods as much as ours do, but there is no reason to assume that His face was any more "expressive" than that of any other average person.
   The face and particularly the eyes have been called "the mirror of the soul." It is, after all, fairly simple to deduce what a person is feeling if you simply look at the expressions on his face. It of course helps to know all the inputs and to be aware of the flow of the conversation. But, all by itself, the human face paints a masterful picture.
   There are certain facial expressions which convey to other human beings ranges of emotions which I thoroughly believe never crossed Jesus' face.
   Did Jesus ever reveal on His face a sly, devious or mischievous look?
   I doubt it. He could never "fake" a look, masquerading behind a false deceptive expression. The look coming out of Jesus' eyes and across His countenance was always precisely the look which portrayed honestly and forthrightly what was going on inside His mind.
   He had God's Holy Spirit without measure and without admixture. You have met any number of people you would say have an "open, honest look" and others who tend, perhaps because of deep-set eyes, a shifty glance, dark brows or low hairlines, to have a sly or devious look.
   I would rather assume Jesus' look was the former, and that there was a frankness, earnestness and openness about His countenance which men would find attractive, yet not especially outstanding. Jesus was serious, but certainly never threatening.
   That same directness of appearance would no doubt change, like a beautiful landscape during a thunderstorm, to blazing anger, when circumstances warranted it.
   The look of profound agony on Jesus' face when He "groaned within himself' over the people's lack of faith as He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead could be contrasted with the look of piercing outrage which He would have displayed as He spoke the words recorded in Matthew's twenty-third chapter, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!"
   Then there would have been the look of mature yet kind indulgence when He gently chided his own mother at the marriage feast at Cana in Galilee when He said, "Woman, what in the world am I going to do with you?" The faint quirk of indulgent humor, showing mild but understanding displeasure, expressed at the corner of His mouth and with a slight furrowing of the brows could be contrasted with the look of real emotional and physical pain over the hopelessness and the utter faithlessness of some of His closest personal friends at Lazarus's tomb.
   Jesus was in fact the kind of a guy you would have loved, but only if you too were filled with God's Holy Spirit, or could be utterly and totally honest with yourself about who and what you were.
   To the higher social classes, especially the religionists of his day, He was the kind of guy you could easily hate.
   But to the little folk, the maimed, the sick, the blind and the tormented, He was in fact the kind of a guy you could love.
   Jesus had average facial texturing and coloring, with average length hair. We might call His hair length "mod" today, since that was the cultural norm at the time — somewhat longer than the hair styles of the 1940s and 1950s and somewhat shorter than the longhaired hippie look of the 1960s.
   There is no doubt that Jesus wore a full, yet neatly trimmed and well-groomed beard. (It would be almost impossible to argue around the fact that Isaiah's prophecy said He "gave his cheek to those who pluck the hair" by alleging it was only a day and a halfs growth to which they applied pinchers or tweezers.) Beards were the custom of the time, and there is no reason to assume that Jesus appeared smooth shaven.
   He followed conscientious practices of personal hygiene.
   Even at the account of the last supper, when Peter began to argue that Jesus would "never wash his feet," Jesus said, "He that is bathed doesn't need to wash anything except his feet" thus proving that all the disciples and Jesus had had opportunity for a bath prior to coming to the dinner.
   Most believe false conceptions about the "dusty roads of Galilee" where they envision a perpetual drought, one muddy creek winding down the middle of the desertlike, rocky wasteland called the "Jordan River," and the "Holy Land" as a bleak, hostile and barren landscape where dust, dirt, fleas, flies, bedraggled camels, braying jackasses, and dusty people in dusty robes made up the whole scene.
   Not so. As has been shown earlier, the land was a verdant beautiful area of greenery, conifers, orchards, fields of vegetables and grain, with rippling brooks and streams, wells, and indoor bathing facilities in some of the homes.
   There were both hot and cold springs in the areas where Jesus lived and worked, and you can be absolutely sure that the great God who so insisted upon cleanliness in the camp of Israel, who gave and made a matter of law the most rigorous attention to personal and communal hygiene, would have followed the practice of daily bathing, meticulous grooming of His person, trimming of the hair and beard, and deliberate choice of His clothing. All with care and concern, but totally devoid of fetish and obsession.
   It is important to note that even Jesus' outer garments were of such quality that the Roman soldiers were industriously gambling for even His undergarments at the foot of His crucifixion stake.
   His outer garments consisted of a coat or cloak which was seamless and, one is tempted to assume, was not unlike Joseph's coat of" many colors."
   Perhaps it was plain, perhaps it had tribal colors or decorations, but at any event, it was in commonplace good taste and of fine quality, just like any number of dark suits worn by businessmen at dinners today.
   A lack of showiness in this dress would have been one of the reasons that Jesus managed on several occasions — prior to God's own appointed and intended time — to elude His pursuers in the riotous melee of a swirling mob of people. How could Jesus have so escaped His attackers if He looked distinctly different from the other people of His day? Surely a pasty-white face, exceedingly long hair and a glowing, golden halo could have been easily spotted!
   No, Jesus was plain. And it was only His similarity in physical appearance (a beard certainly helps when there are hundreds of them about) as well as the similarity of the garments He wore that enabled Him to lose Himself in a crowd "passing by in their midst" and thereby succeed in escaping.
   The quality of the clothing was extremely fine in first-century Palestine.
   Housewives still speak of "sheets and linens" today, though mostly they are really speaking about cheaper cottons and synthetics. But the purchase of fine handmade linens can be a costly acquisition indeed.
   Linen was handmade and was durable enough to last for many years during Jesus' day.
   Many other kinds of fabrics were woven by the people of that country, and the Bible speaks of velvets, purples, fine linens, and many kinds of personal clothing, as well as draperies and tapestries.
   Jesus' inner garments would have been of lightweight cotton, linen and/or wool. The outer coat was almost surely wool.
   Check the price tags on a 100 percent wool suit today and compare it with other kinds of fabrics; it may change your mind about thinking that all of the fabrics of Jesus' day were crude by comparison to ours.
   Even as architecture during His day and further back in history was superb — who could ever hope to duplicate the pyramids of Egypt, the fabulous hanging gardens of Babylon, the Colossus of Rhodes, the temple of Solomon's day, Herod's amphitheaters, deep water ports and palaces? — so it is that the finely made hides, skins, fabrics and the like during Jesus' day would be fabulous possessions for any family even in our time.
   The real Jesus epitomized what God would look like as a man — well groomed but not affected, well dressed but not clothes-conscious, clean but not antiseptic, dignified but not "distinguished."

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Publication Date: 1977
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