What did Jesus look like? Most people probably have a mental image of Jesus. This picture is based on paintings and actor portrayals of Jesus we have seen over the years. But the reality is, no one alive on earth today really knows what Jesus looked like when he walked this earth. There were no cameras 2,000 years ago, of course. And as far as we know, Jesus did not pose for a painter or sculptor. Did he have long hair and a beard, as he is usually depicted? Probably, since that was typical of Jewish men 2,000 years ago. Was he dark-haired and dark-skinned? Being a Semitic person who lived in the Middle East, that's a pretty safe assumption. But finally, only the people who were with Jesus would know for sure.
Thankfully, the man who knew Jesus perhaps as well as any other; the man referred to as "the disciple whom Jesus loved;" the one Jesus entrusted the care of his mother to as he died on the cross, gives us several descriptions of Jesus. That man is the apostle John. In the last book of the Bible, Revelation, John gives us several portraits of Jesus following his resurrection. These portraits aren't literal, physical descriptions of what Jesus looked like. Rather, these are descriptions of what he was like - his glory, his power, his mercy, his grace. Think of them as Picasso portraits, rather than Norman Rockwell illustrations.
Among those portraits John "paints" for us in Revelation is the one we find in chapter five, where Jesus is described as "the Lamb who was slain." The depiction of Jesus as a lamb takes us back to the Old Testament, when lambs were slaughtered for the Passover. In Exodus, God had commanded his people to take year-old, perfect male lambs. They were to slaughter them, and then roast them for the special meal they were about to eat. But it was the blood of these lambs that was especially important. This blood was to be painted on the door frames of their homes. That night, the Angel of the Lord would visit Egypt, raining down death. But the homes that had the blood of the lamb would be passed over.
That's the picture of the risen Savior John paints in Revelation 5. He's the Lamb who was slain. Normally, one would think that a slaughtered lamb would make an ugly, repulsive picture. But this is a beautiful portrait. It's beautiful because the blood of the Lamb of God, like the blood of the Passover lamb, saves us. It washes away our sins and makes us worthy of life eternal. But it's also a beautiful portrait because it's not a picture of a dead lamb, but the living Lamb of God. Jesus was slain, but he rose. He was dead, but he lives forever.
However you may picture Jesus in your mind, see him as the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
- Brent Merten is pastor of Mountain Valley Lutheran Church, 802 Brush Creek Terrace.