Sound Doctrine - Titus 2:1

"Art And Man's Devising"

Bryan Matthew Dockens

People the world over seem convinced they know what Jesus looked like. His supposed likeness is depicted in all manner of religious art, from sculpture to stained glass, and oil paintings to charcoal sketches. However, little of what is assumed about His appearance is verifiable.

No one on earth has actually seen Jesus in nearly two thousand years. Inasmuch as the apostle Paul claimed to be Christ's final witness (1 Corinthians 15:3-8), all claims to have seen the Lord since then must be discounted as fraudulent. Jesus never sat for a portrait, so any attempt to illustrate His form is highly speculative in nature.

What little can be discerned from the scriptures regarding the Lord's physical image generally proves the inaccuracy of artist's renderings. In most artwork, Christ is portrayed as a rather handsome man, but Isaiah prophesied, "He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him" (Isaiah 53:2). The beauty of Jesus is His message, not His face or body.

The striking figure rendered by many artists wears long hair, but Jesus almost certainly did not. An apostle of Christ wrote "if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him" (1 Corinthians 11:14).

He does seem to have worn a beard (Isaiah 50:6), but there is no telling its length.

Having worked as a carpenter long before the invention of power tools (Mark 6:3), it is reasonable to conclude Jesus had muscular arms at the outset of His ministry, but without that exercise, the muscles likely atrophied somewhat by the time of His death a few years later.

Varying from place to place, Christ is occasionally shown to have blond hair, or black skin, or an Asian appearance. All this seems unlikely. Jesus was a Jew (John 4:9). His ancestry through the tribe of Judah is recorded in detail (Luke 3:23-38). Simple probability would suggest His hair and eyes were dark in color, while His skin would have been a ruddy complexion, like His ancestor David (1 Samuel 16:12; 17:42).

On earth, Jesus was a plain figure, with short hair and a beard of unspecified length. He may have been somewhat muscular and probably had features common to most Jews. To suggest details of His appearance which cannot be ascertained from the scriptures is to intrude into things God has chosen not to reveal to us (Deuteronomy 29:29), things of no consequence spiritually.

However Christ may have looked on earth, He does not look that way now. Having risen from the dead and ascended into heaven, He no longer occupies a natural body of dust, but a spiritual body in heaven, glorious and incorruptible (1 Corinthians 15:35-53). Those who overcome sin and are saved in the gospel of Christ are promised this same bodily change.

To remain fixated on outward appearance is dangerous indeed. Jesus taught, "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment" (John 7:24). Those who are satisfied by a pleasant countenance will surely be deceived, "For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14).

Christians should not be so superficially minded, "For we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7), and faith pertains to "things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). We serve an invisible God (Romans 1:20) who is not "worshiped with men's hands" (Acts 17:25). "We ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man's devising" (Acts 17:29).

But How Do I Know Whether This Is Good Or Bad?

Author Unknown

There is an old story which is told of a man who raised horses for a living. When one of his prized stallions ran away, his friends gathered at his home to mourn his great loss. After they had expressed their concern, the man raised this question: "How do I know whether what happened is good or bad?" A couple of days later the runaway horse returned with several strays following close behind. The same acquaintances again came to his house, but this time to celebrate his good fortune. "But how do I know whether it's good or bad?" the old gentleman asked them. That very afternoon, one of the horses kicked the owner's son and broke his leg. Once more the crowd assembled, now to express their sorrow over the incident. "But how do I know if this is good or bad?" the father asked again. Only a few days later, war broke out. The man's son, however, was exempted from military service because of his broken leg. Yes, you guessed it; the friends again gathered, but the story stops here. We can easily see how it could go on and on. This tale points out that from our limited human perspective, it's impossible to know with certainty how to interpret the experiences of life.

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).

"I surely know that it will be well with those who fear the Lord, who fear before Him" (Ecclesiastes 812).

"His mercy is on those who fear Him" (Luke 1:50).

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