(This article pinned to top for Easter. Scroll down for newer items.)
I Grew Up Thinking Jesus Was A Handsome White Guy With Blondish Hair
That’s the Jesus of my youth that you’re looking at. Remember that picture? It was everywhere – even secretly in some homes where images of Jesus and the cross were forbidden (“Too Catholic” said a certain lady relative, but she had a secret one, doan ya know!) Maybe it was tucked away in a bedroom cabinet, or behind a door but at one time that picture was as common in Barbados as flying fish and cou-cou.
Handsome white guy, blondish hair flowing over the shoulders, chiseled features and that oh-so-thin Hollywood nose. At 6 years old that picture almost made me ashamed that I didn’t look like HIM.
Especially with my too wide, too dark, too damned big nose… not to mention my hair.
My Jewish Jesus Stage
A few years later at maybe 8 or 9 years old, I started to have doubts about the picture. My white Jesus didn’t look like any Jew I’d ever seen. Not that I’d seen many real live Jews on BIM, but we had some National Geographics floating around and my white Jesus didn’t look like any Jew anywhere. So I started thinking of Jesus as a New York City Jewish man with olive skin and a big nose. He didn’t say “Oy vey!” or wear a black hat, but he had the orthodox curls down the side of his face. You get the picture.
Short Haired Ugly Jesus
Then I read in the Bible (written by Paul) “If a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him”. Would Paul have written this if Jesus had long hair? Later I heard a sermon about references in a Bible verse that the Messiah was “not comely”, meaning he was not good to look at. Maybe even an ugly guy.
My childhood mental image of white handsome Jesus was by this time long gone.
African Jewish Jesus
I heard about black Jews and for many years Jesus became not just black, but African. He stood teaching on the mount – black skin proudly shining in the sun. He had my nose, my hair. He still spoke Bajan, but there are limits on the imagination when a 12 year old is dealing with the unknown.
The Sermon On The Mount Crowd Gave Me Some Trouble – Why Weren’t They African Like My Jesus?
In my mind, I saw my African Jesus teaching, but the crowd at the sermon on the mount always looked Middle Eastern. Something was wrong – either with my vision of Jesus or my vision of the crowd. Doubts began to form.
Slowly, the vision of Jesus in my mind faded as I put God aside for a time as young men sometimes do, but I was never again able to know what Jesus looked like.
When I came back to Jesus and I found that I had no picture in my mind of what he looked like, it occurred to me that perhaps that is just the way that Jesus wants it. The world has no contemporary drawings of Jesus, if they ever existed at all. All those pictures and icons we see are from artists’ imaginations hundreds or even two thousand years after his crucifixion.
It seems to me that if Jesus wanted drawings of him to survive from his life on earth that he could have made that happen.
This is not to say that I am taking a theological position that images of Jesus are bad, good or otherwise. I’m just saying that if Jesus wanted everyone to know what his face and body looked like he could have made that happen.
If I want to know what Jesus looked like, I’ll have to wait.
Jesus Around The World
No matter how hard we try, we each impose our own view of people and culture on everything we experience, and Jesus is no exception.
Around the world, we have pictures of Chinese Jesus…
White As Snow Jesus…
Jewish Jesus At The Wailing Wall In Jerusalem…
And even a “Forensic Facial Reconstruction” Jesus…
Interesting Links For Good Friday
Popular Mechanics: The Real Face Of Jesus
Movie Trailer: Color Of The Cross