What did Jesus look like?

The answer has to be that we do not know.

And yet we all have an image in our minds of what we THINK he looks like. After all we have seen his picture everywhere since we first began to recognise faces. Jesus is the most recognised person in history despite the fact that we have no description of his appearance beyond a few general comments in the bible.

jesusDoes it matter what we think he looks like? Of course it does. How we represent things in our mind has a powerful effect on how we respond to them.  Perhaps the long hair and blue eyes of so many portraits of Jesus was a way of encouraging white Europeans to accept the christian message. If you can identify with him you are more likely to engage with him.

In a recent radio broadcast Rev Giles Fraser told the story of his experience at theological college, when all the trainee priests had to take a personality test called Myers Briggs. Before they received their categorisation they were asked to try to decide what personality type they thought Jesus was. He commented

the remarkable thing was that there was a high degree of convergence between one’s own type and the type that we assigned to him. Extroverts thought Jesus was an extrovert and introverts thought Jesus was an introvert and so on. It was a fascinating exercise because it revealed how readily we can construct a mental figure of people like Jesus in our own image. And the shocking conclusion of this is how easy it is, when we Christians worship Jesus, for us to worship ourselves or a projection of ourselves.

In 2002 Popular Mechanics published a feature article called  The Real Face of Jesus in which they reported how “advances in science helped reveal the most famous face in history”. Richard Naeve, a medical artist, used his skill and his experience in forensic anthropology to construct a model that represented the typical face of a first century Jew. This, they thought, would shed light on the appearance of Jesus.

We know that Jesus lived in the hot Mediterranean climate of Galilee, working hard with his hands. He would be  muscular and physically fit. He would be around 5’1″ tall and would probably look older than his age because of the effects of the climate and his manual labour. Life expectancy at that time was  50 years for men. His complexion would be dark. His hair short, dark and wiry, and he would have a short beard.

Here he is . . . a physical rendering of the likely appearance of Jesus.


This looks like John the Baptist to me! I can see a passionate desert evangelist. But somehow I don’t recognise the personality of Jesus in the eyes.

The apostle John was close to Jesus throughout the three years of his public ministry. He wrote his gospel within the lifetime of many eye witnesses to record what he knew about Jesus. His purpose was “that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name”. In the first chapter he described Jesus by saying

In him was life and that life was the light of all mankind . . . full of grace and truth

I think if we looked into Jesus’ eyes we would see an intensity that both attracted and challenged us. Life, light, grace and truth would shine in his eyes.

I think we would feel challenged to change.

Waiting for the wave

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAScrolling through the posts on the blog, you will notice long gaps between entries.  I had two false starts to launch the blog and disappeared off-line for long spells.  And yet I have never lost the drive to explore this subject with you. It matters too much to me.

The trouble is that the more I explored what having life to the full was all about, the more I realised what a huge challenge I was taking on, and the less I felt equipped to take on the task. Fear is not a generative emotion. I knew I needed a mentor but I didn’t know who to ask.

The most helpful comment came from a friend whose opinion I trust. “Maybe you are simply waiting for the wave” he mused.  His surfing metaphor became an aha moment. I have been standing on the edge, pumped up and longing to get going, but powerless until the wave comes.  The wave that brings energy, order and direction to my cluttered thinking. Waiting and preparing became exciting.

The wave came in the form of a group of women who write. Individual, creative, inspiring and beautiful women. Each with a story to tell, challenges they live with and a heart to share together. Their energy and support has launched me into the wind. You will meet them along the way.

“My time is not yet here”, said Jesus, when his brothers encouraged him to go public with his ministry. The word he used was kairos which means the right moment or season. He did not respond to pressure from other people’s perspective. Nor did he take matters into his own hands to manipulate and outcome. His attention was on a bigger picture which gave him inspiration to prepare and courage to wait for the season to arrive.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens

Within the waiting there is a challenge to prepare and be ready when the wave arrives.

A letter to God

What would you do if you were given 10 minutes to write a letter to God? No time to re-draft, or put it off until another day. You must do it now.

You can write anything you want, but you only have 10 minutes.

What would you say? Would you write about regrets, ask for forgiveness, confront him with questions, spill out bitterness or plead for something to change?

Writing things down helps us to see more clearly what is going on in our lives – where our priorities lie. It helps us to take ownership of parts of our lives that are out of control, and it helps us to let things go.

I sat with 9 others in a room for 20 minutes. A few moments to settle, a brief outline of our task, paper and pen in front of us, and 10 minutes to write.

None of us needed a moment to think. Our pens rumbled and scraped over the paper. Then a sniff from someone beside me, another from behind. A box of tissues passed round. Something deep and moving was happening in the meeting between hearts, minds, paper and God.

We sealed our letter in an envelope and prayed to God, who gives us life and breath and everything else.

In my letter I saw what is most important to me. And as I wrote on the envelope “To my Father” I recognised that I am utterly dependent on God’s character. As I open my deepest longings to him I need to know that he accepts, loves and forgives me.  I feel vulnerable.

The pressure was off and I moved on, stunned by the clarity of knowing what is urgent and important to me.

As I walked home I was already planning what to change.

Dare to give this a go. A brief coffee break that can turn your thinking around. Pour yourself a hot drink and sit down with pen and paper. Before you finish your drink, or it has gone cold, write a letter to God.

I tore my letter up and walked away from it.  Writing things down helped me to let them go and move on.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.