Genesis 1:26 tells us “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…’”
What people have generally done is the opposite by casting God in our image. The most popular iconic figure for artists and sculptors has been Jesus. Representations today still bear the influence of the Italian Renaissance, which generally make Jesus look like (Surprise!) an Italian living in the Middle Ages. Surely nothing could be more laughable than the blond, blue-eyed Jesus depicted in the Western hemisphere.
A project undertaken by the British Broadcasting Corp. and the Discovery Channel tried to set the record straight. A documentary television series presented a new picture of Jesus. Created by a forensic artist at the University of Manchester, it is based on a 2,000-year-old skull of a Jewish male from Israel and hair and skin tone on third-century frescoes of Jewish faces. The problem is that this Jesus, is, well, unattractive. Kathleen Parker’s reaction is likely to be typical of many:
A new computer-generated face of Jesus — based on probable Jewish features, skin color and hair 2000 years ago — has ruined a million stained-glass windows around the globe and left Christians of all races to worship someone they’ve never seen before…this new Jesus looks like no one familiar…looks like the kind of guy who wouldn’t make it through airport security.
All the hubbub about how Jesus should and should not look provides a good opportunity for us to be reminded of a few lessons:
· People immaturely believe Jesus must look like “us,” even though he wasn’t American.
· People instinctively believe Jesus must not look like “them,” even though he was a first-century Jew.
· People ignorantly believe Jesus must look like the guy who donated the 2000-year-old skull, which proves nothing.
Why do folks insist on making Jesus in their image? He was not matinee-idol handsome, if you believe the Bible (Isa 53:2). He did not look like Kenny Loggins, if you have any common sense. Perhaps the reason we don’t have any accurate depictions of his appearance, such as we have for his contemporary Caesar Augustus, is the Lord knew it would become a distraction to many. Why does it matter what he looked like? What matters is who he was, and what he has done for all of us. We need to be transformed into his likeness, not the other way around.
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