His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;  And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. (Revelation 1:14-15)
What did Jesus look like? This is an interesting question and one I am sure any reader of scripture has wondered. I believe my experience with reading novels and other types of stories is similar to that of most people. If the book is fiction, we don’t have any way of knowing what the characters look like except for the image the author is able to put in our minds by his descriptive and imaginative use of language. We visualize the person in our minds as we think they would appear, but if we were good artists and were asked to make a painting of the characters I am sure the pictures would be quite different. Sometimes novels are made into movies and the actors that play the parts often become our permanent visualization of the characters.
Although Jesus was real (and still is!), there were no portraits made of Him. Neither is there a detailed description of Him in the Bible or from any other source. Still, if you ask what Jesus looked like, there is nearly unanimous agreement. Many have pictures on their walls that supposedly represent Him. These pictures need no labels because they are immediately recognized. These are the imagination of men and have become ingrained in our minds over a few centuries.
Many good Christian people own these portraits, but they steadfastly maintain they represent the man only and they would never consider them to be an image of worship. However, these same people treat the picture in a different way than other pictures. They would never think of defacing it because do so would be to treat Jesus with irreverence. There is one word that describes this feeling: IDOLATRY.
Any picture, statue, or other likeness of God is forbidden by scripture. Likewise, any images made of other people living or dead or of any angelic beings or creatures that are used in churches or other places as a part of worship is forbidden. We could go to the Ten Commandments and easily rule these out, but we can also apply the simple test that is applied to portraits of Jesus. Could you as easily disfigure, break apart, and/or dispose of the image as you would any other item? If not, the image has become your idol. We are to carefully avoid these representations because of the spiritual danger that is involved. Idol worship is satanic and was a major sin to which Israel succumbed even while Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments on Sinai. In the New Testament, the scriptures broadened the interpretation of idolatry to include sins like covetousness. This means anything that takes first place in your life above God is an idol. If idolatry is possible without an actual physical image, how serious is a real image?
What did Jesus look like? No one knows. We only know there was nothing physically attractive about Him. People were not drawn to Him for His good looks and manly physique. He could have passed for any normal person on the street. The most important question is not “What did Jesus look like?” The most important question is, “What did He do for sinners like me?”
Pastor V. Mark Smith