Recently I was in a clothing store and I was caught off guard by an ad of Jesus sporting a pair of blue jeans! “Wow”! I commented to my friend, “now they have Jesus advertising blue jeans”! My friend,never one to buy the bunny farm, asked the obvious question: “how do you know it’s Jesus?” Pondering that one for a bit, I replied “because it looks like Him”. Hhmmm…I know…you are wondering as well, how do I know what Jesus looks like?
I don’t. I only know what I have seen in paintings. What I have seen in movies. He always has long hair, sometimes blue eyes, occasionally brown and almost always gentle looking. Rarely is He portrayed in the manner of my favorite illustration of Him which is by Richard Hook. Rugged, outdoorsy, kind of like a real carpenter would look or a guy that hung out with fishermen. I like Him looking more earthy and not like such a groovy, stoned hippy type. I picture Him more engaging and relational, not so effeminate and reflective. In fact when I saw the movie “Son of God” last night I really wished that the actor for Peter or John would have been chosen for the part of Jesus. They seemed to me to be more of what I would picture Jesus to be like. Maybe a combination of Peter’s boldness coupled with John’s sensitivity.
There is a reality here though that I must face. I don’t know what Jesus looked like. Neither do you. We can only create what we think in our minds as far as his physical features are concerned and if we are artists portray it on canvas or in film. One thing is for sure, all of us will choose the picture that we most need or want Him to be.
I wonder if we don’t do this far too often in how we go about interpreting scripture. We find ourselves saying “this is what this passage means to me” or “my experience is”. We search for how we can make sense of what we read by putting it through our own limited understanding without broadening our minds to His unlimited and infinite ways. We forget that His ways are not our ways, that His word is inspired, that the Holy Spirit illuminates it so that we might understand the truths written there. We create God and His word into our image of what we need Him to be for us and we don’t see Him for who He really is. We land with where it all makes sense in our reality but maybe not so much in lining ourselves up with His. In our desire for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ we take many privileges with Him and the understanding of Him that we assume He will bless. Praise God that He has much patience and mercy for our attempts to understand Him because He knows that we are human and He alone tests the motives of our hearts. Are we truly idolatrous, creating God in our own image or are we messily trying to figure him out? For the first there is repentance and the humility of Job who said “therefore I have uttered things that I did not understand, things too wonderful for me that I did not know” Job 42:3. For the latter there is the promise of Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”.
What will happen if we make it our aim to know Him for who He is? We have this life time to go as deep in that understanding as our desire to pursue Him. He can be found and it is in places that are beyond what our finite minds can comprehend.
I don’t know if I will ever get a picture of what Jesus looked like when He walked the earth. I do know that there is a lifetime of opportunity for me to get to know who He really is if I am willing to let go of who I think I need Him to be.