What did Jesus look like when He came to earth the first time?
Was He handsome like a movie star, or was He plain looking? Did He have long hair, and a beard? Did He wear a white robe everywhere He went? Was He short or tall, heavy or thin, muscular or weak looking?
Nowhere in the New Testament does it give a description of Jesus, and I think that was intentional, because we would have statues and busts of Jesus everywhere for people to worship. So, let’s talk about what we know about Him, and make some guesses from there. Now, notice what I said, this is all supposition and guess work, which is not something we do in this class very often. So, don’t anybody go off huffing and puffing because I described Jesus differently than you imagined. You might be right. I don’t know what He looked like, nobody alive now does.
First, He was a Jew, living in the Middle East area of that time. That probably means He had dark hair and a darkish complexion common in that area.
And contrary to every photo, painting, movie appearance, stage actor, that portrays the Lord Jesus, I don’t believe He had long hair. A lot of this comes from people who confuse the fact that Jesus came from Nazareth, and was called a Nazarite, and the Old Testament ritual of people who make the Nazarite vow of dedication. This could be anybody, man or woman, who choose to be separated for a period of time, or who were dedicated by their parents to be a Nazarite before they were born. They didn’t have to come from Nazareth to be a Nazarite in this ritual. The details of this ritual can be found Numbers 6:1-22. It contains a list of all the required do’s and don’ts of that vow, and one of them is that a razor shall not touch the head during the period of dedication, which means they would have long hair and a long beard. It also talks about not drinking wine, or vinegar, or eating any type of grape, or coming near the dead. Which are all things that Jesus did. The Bible does not say anywhere that Jesus made such a vow, nor does it give any indications that He did the things required to be a Nazarite according to the Old Testament ritual.
It was not common for men of that time to have long hair or beards. A fact that Paul addresses in 1 Cor. 11:14. This verse would lead us to believe that Jesus would not have long hair since it says that having long hair would customarily bring shame to a man. So, you can disagree if you like, but I don’t think Jesus had long hair.
We are also told that Jesus was a carpenter by trade. Carpenters in those days did not have power tools to work with. Everything was done by hand. They worked on wood and stone, and the wood was not already cut into nice smooth 2x4, or 4x4 pieces of lumber. They had to work with rough timber, debark it, and trim it down, all by hand. Every part of a carpenter’s work was intense physical labor. This would imply that Jesus would have been a big, strong, man with great physical strength. Yet this strength was kept under control, which is a good description of meekness. So, Jesus was likely what we would call a man’s man, not a body builder type that we think of today, but a man with the body of a heavy construction worker. This is born out by the description of Jesus carrying the cross after suffering such intense torture at the hands of men who were experts at hurting people. Even surviving this torture, and I believe Satan made sure it was the most horrible possible, to be hung on a cross would have required Jesus to be a tremendously tough and strong individual.
So, was He movie star handsome, with a twinkle in His eye, and a set of pearly white teeth? I don’t think so. The only description found in the Bible of what Jesus looked like is found in the Old Testament, in the book of Isaiah.
2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
The key words here are, he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. Isaiah tells us that Jesus looked like an ordinary man and that there was nothing special in His appearance that would make Him stand out. In other words, He likely didn’t have the typical TV preacher wave to His hair, and He probably would not look good on a movie screen. All of this is born out in the New Testament when time and again, Jesus would slip away into the crowds and could not be found.
13 And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place.
29 And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong.
30 But he passing through the midst of them went his way,
Now, I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit was doing His work in these events as well, but if Jesus had long hair and wore a white robe, when most Jewish men of that time had short hair and short beards, then He would have been easy to find, for He would have stood out in a crowd.
So, we are told that He was not desirous to look upon nor had no beauty, in other words, He wasn’t handsome. That doesn’t mean He was ugly, just plain looking, like everybody else. Jesus’ humanity made Him out to be no different looking than any other man of the day. He was strong and extremely physically fit and that He was able to blend in with the crowds very easily. The Bible is silent on exactly what He looked like and if the Bible is silent on His exact appearance, then God apparently doesn’t think it’s important for us to know.
What we do know is that people were attracted to Jesus, not by His looks, but by His words and His actions, including the miracles He did. The miracles were His proof of who He was, the Promised One. His words were for us to learn about the gospel message of eternal life that He purchased for us on the cross. Jesus drew crowds everywhere He went. They were drawn to Him by His humanity, His words, and His actions. So, we may not know what Jesus looked like when He came the first time, but in our lesson over the next two weeks, we are going to be given a firm description of what our Lord Jesus will look like when He comes the second time. Click the link and listen to hear a description of what our Lord Jesus looks like.