The Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth is one intimidating fellow.
And by fellow, of course, I mean "Holy Creator God of all time, space, and existence." (What's so intimidating about that, right?)
By all biblical accounts, Jesus is loving, accepting, and eminently approachable. But as an artistic subject, He is the most intimidating thing of all - a complete and total enigma.
There is no mention of anything close to resembling a physical description of Jesus in the Bible. In fact, the only thing it contains about His appearance is that He was not a good looking guy. That's it.
So, when I was recently asked to create some digital paintings for a sermon series titled, "I AM: Meeting Jesus Again for the Very First Time," I found myself in a bit of a quandary. I knew at least one of my paintings would have to feature Jesus. I mean, He is the star of the show, after all, but...
What does the Creator of the seen and unseen universe look like?
As an artist who relies on visual references for her paintings, I found a disheartening dearth of Son of Man selfies. Not really surprising. I did, however, find a veritable treasure trove of breathtakingly beautiful and intricate oils painted by the old Italian masters depicting the facade of a white, European male that we in the western world have come to collectively identify as 'the face of Jesus', even while acknowledging that that perception is inherently flawed considering the place and time that Jesus entered into human history, and that no one ever mistook Him for 'one of those Roman characters' in the garden of Gethsemane.
And thus my quandary deepened.
If I painted a picture of a Middle Eastern Jewish man, very few in these parts would readily identify Him as 'Jesus'. If I painted Him like the Renaissance masters did, I would be pandering to a false, though prevailing, whitewashed western worldview. I was deeply conflicted, and as I so often do in these times of great moral morass, I opted to paint grapes and bread instead.
Okay, that's not entirely true. I only sketched that one out while wrestling with my apprehensions over the Jesus painting. But something cathartic did occur in the sketching process. I experienced a rare moment of stillness and peace, and a deep conviction of something I think I've known all along...
There is a divine reason Jesus' appearance is never described in the Bible.
As a believer, I view the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. As the Apostle Paul wrote, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness..." And just as all the words and lessons contained in the Bible are of profound significance and importance, so too can those be which have been purposely and divinely omitted. For instance, considering the very telling lack of such citings, I don't think I'd be remiss in saying that the eternally white-robed Jesus would probably concur with my hypothesis that the unwritten 11th commandment would go something like, "Thou shall not trust a man wearing skinny jeans to make good life decisions."
(Now, I'm sure the vast skinny-pants-wearing male contingent of my readership - currently comprising roughly 0.02% and falling! - will balk at my assumptions regarding the Most High's disdain for their personal choice of stretch denim leg casings, but if you, like me, are a product of the relaxed fit generation, when capital-M-E-N MEN wore jeans that didn't give them the shapely gams of 1940's pin-up girls, strangely sagging posteriors, and deep vein thromboses, you get it. You totally get it. Your disdain for "masculine" skinny jeans is actually holy and biblical, thus sayeth the Lord.)
Okay, okay, I digress.
Consider instead, if you will, the 613 Mosaic laws parceled out in just the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible), or the ancient Hebrew phone directory alone that is the book of Numbers. If those examples don't prove that the Almighty God is what we'd call "detail-oriented", I don't know what does.
But unlike every other doting parent in history, our heavenly Father never gushed in the pages of the New Testament ad nauseam over His Son's adorable baby cheeks and button nose, or boasted about what a divine specimen of masculinity he grew to be (quite literally). Nor did He ever inspire those words to be penned by His prophets.
So, why not?
Well, I imagine the answer lies in Jesus Himself and who He is.
The King of all tribes and every nation.
Or, to paraphrase Paul, everything to everyone, in order that they may be saved.
I came to find in my search that Jesus is depicted reverently in art in nearly every hue of the rainbow and every ethnicity under the sun, and though I don't claim to speak for Him, I have to believe that His heart is filled to overflowing any time that His children seek to express the depth of their love for Him using the gifts that He bestowed on them. After all, I, too, have a heart melting collection of "Mom" stick figures (and not so stick figures) that my son has drawn of me that I will treasure until the day I go home to be with Jesus, even if my head really isn't a lopsided and open-ended ellipse and my mouth isn't truly the shape of a watermelon wedge.
I love the heart behind the art. And so too, I believe, does Jesus.
With that belief in mind, I allowed myself the freedom that being truly free in Christ affords me. I didn't worry about political correctness or any potential religious backlash. I created with just these words in mind:
Everything that Jesus epitomizes to me inspired me to create this...
Is it Jesus?
Only God knows, but I don't think so. It's just an amalgam of His classical depiction with a tad more olive in his skin tone and a touch more Arabic features.
But the real question, the true question, I believe, is, does it capture His heart for humanity?
Does it evoke an emotional response? A desire to more fully know this man?
What do you think, dear readers? Do you feel His love?