The Jesus of the bible is remarkably different from the Jesus pictured in our children’s story books.
I don’t, as a rule, go to a barber to cut my hair. I stand in front of the mirror and cut it myself. But one day, the Holy Spirit challenged me about my reticence in going to the barbing salon. I was forced to admit I did not like the shape of my head. My head is shaped at the back like an egg, and I feel I know best how to hide its funny contours.
But the Lord insisted my head was exactly the shape he had given me. Before I could have the audacity to complain as to why he did not give me a better-shaped head, the Lord asked me one of those strange questions.
He said: “Femi, do you think Jesus is the most handsome man that ever lived?”
Somehow, I naturally assumed he must have been. And then I discovered on investigation that the Jesus of the bible is remarkably different from the Jesus pictured in our children’s story books, and the Jesus whose fabricated portraits adorn our living-rooms. The real Jesus of Nazareth was physically ugly.
Isaiah says of him: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2 KJV). “In our eyes there was no attractiveness at all, nothing to make us want him” (Isaiah 53:2 TLB). This means, in all probability, the real Jesus has a big nose and protruding teeth. He probably has big ears as well.
Anyone who understands kingdom dynamics knows that Jesus could never have been good-looking by conventional standards. To be fully representative of mankind, Jesus must belong to the least common denominator. In the kingdom of God, every natural valley is exalted and every mountain and hill made low (Luke 3:5). Therefore, the valley of ugliness must be exalted in Jesus, while the mountain of beauty must be made low.
Jesus says: “what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God (Luke 16:15). Men esteem physical beauty; therefore God must disdain it in Christ. God said to Samuel: “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). The beauty of Jesus was not physical; it was the beauty of holiness (Psalm 96:9).
Despised and rejected
Jesus is the stone which the builders rejected (Psalm 118:22). He was not only physically unattractive; he was of poor earthly parentage. His family could only afford a poor man’s sacrifice at his birth (Luke 2:24; Leviticus 12:8). He did not even go to school (John 7:15).
Isaiah describes him as the one “whom man despises” and whom “the nation abhors” (Isaiah 49:7). “He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from him; he was despised, and we did not esteem him” (Isaiah 53:3). Therefore Isaiah asks: “Who has believed our report?” (Isaiah 53:1). Who would believe that the Son of God would be like this?
Indeed, the modern church refuses to believe the report of Isaiah. The biblical Jesus is without gloss and glamour. But that portrait is unacceptable to mercenary mega-pastors who see the gospel as the power to get wealth.
In his book, “The $elling of Je$u$,” Victor Bryditzki observes cryptically that: “Mickey Mouse is growing old, Snoopy is slowly losing his touch, E.T. has finally made his phone call and gone home. Cabbage Patch dolls were harvested too fast to last. But Je$u$ continues to sell. In fact, Je$u$ is a multi-billion dollar industry, expanding into places where angels (and sober Christians) fear to tread.”
These pastors insist God would use a more inviting and appealing specimen than a lowly unattractive Jewish carpenter to fulfill his lofty purposes. If you want people to buy Coca-cola, it is unwise to choose a man clearly suffering from acne as your spokesman?
Therefore, the wisdom of man says: “Let us re-package the whole gospel story. Let us come up with a different and more engaging design. Let us give Jesus a more urbane and contemporary look, otherwise people will reject him once again.”
Accordingly, the new improved Jesus is no longer Middle-Eastern but European. He is now blue-eyed and good-looking. To some, like Jesse Duplantis, he even wears designer clothes and rides a “lincoln continental donkey.” He is no longer naked and unashamed on the cross; he is covered with a loincloth. The cross itself has mutated from a burden that is carried to an ornament that is worn.
We have created in Jesus the beauty we desire. As a result, we have ended up with a worldly Jesus and with a worldly faith.