There is yet another movie about Jesus coming soon. Unlike The Passion, in this movie a Portuguese man, portrays an White-Israeli man, while speaking English with an aristocratic British accent. I love that we’re trying to accurately portray the life of Christ! All of us can agree that a British accent ups the ante on quality film-making.
If you know me in the slightest, you know that I hate the archetypal image known as Jesus. Some of us call it White Jesus, and to others, it’s just plain old Jesus – but I can’t stand it either way. This isn’t a race thing; because, I’m not a fan of Black Jesus either. I am wholeheartedly against all artistic/actor portrayals of, or artistic license taken with, the mightiest man of history and eternity. We had a giant statue of a man in a robe, known as “Touchdown Jesus” in town. When I heard that it burned down, after being struck by lightning, I rejoiced with timbrel and dance. May all idols face the same demise!
Yes, I called it an idol. Yes, it is an idol. In King James speak: it doth be a graven image. God commands us explicitly not to create idols:
You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth (Exodus 20:4).
That, my friends, is from the Ten Commandments – a scripture right under our collective nose, and yet we continue to create and justify our idols by naming them after the most holy Son of God. It’s shameful. God is against every likeness, be it costumed male, expertly shaped marble figure, or Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam. We cannot honor the Lord by explicitly ignoring His commands. No amount of skillful creation will change the jealous nature of our Father toward idols. And no amount of arguing can change the fact that we are guilty of ascribing the greatness of God to bearded white man in a robe.
With nothing at all to go on, our culture has decided that Jesus on earth was white-ish/medium tanned, with long hair and a beard, wearing a dress with a shawl thrown carelessly over one shoulder, or draped over an arm. We don’t care who portrays Jesus, if he’s a Christian or even a good actor; we just want him to look like our creation of Jesus. If he speaks with a British accent, that’s even better, because it sounds like the King James Version of the Bible (which is the only version to have).
The Israelites did the same thing. After being delivered from Pharaoh’s army, and watching said army drown in the Red Sea, the Israelites wanted to put a figure with the God who saved them. They made a golden calf and proclaimed, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!” (Exodus 32:4). Note how they didn’t say, another god had delivered them, but rather they created an image to represent God. They just wanted to put a face with their worship. What’s wrong with that? Everything.
God, who created time and placed everything in time as it pleased Him, sent Jesus at a time where there were no cameras, and no portrait painters. He revealed Jesus to the prophet Isaiah, without mentioning any physical features, save a lack of outstanding handsomeness. Daniel described the appearance of the Ancient of Days, the appearance of the four beasts, but, when he saw Jesus, he described nothing of His looks. This is not by coincidence, but by the wisdom of God Who knows man’s propensity to create and follow idols. Even John, the beloved disciple who walked with Jesus, gave us no description of His physical body while on the earth. Not even hair color, or height, or build. Only in Revelation do we see the Son of God in heavenly (not human) form, with eyes of fire, feet like brass, and a two-edged sword coming out of His mouth.
Why is it that none of our pictures of Jesus depict the real Jesus seen in Revelation? Simple: He doesn’t appeal to our deep-rooted desire to worship self. As Tony Campolo once said, “God created man in His image, and man decided to return the favor.” We don’t look like that Jesus, and we’ve never seen anything like that Jesus. In exalting Him, we can in no way exalt ourselves. Our faith is so peculiar because we worship an invisible God. Our altars are before no image, and our service is to one whom “no one has seen at any time” (John 1:18). Other faiths have their sacred pictures, and graven images – but we should be different.
God has hidden the image of Jesus’ humanity from us. The scriptures charge us to know Jesus after the flesh, or as a man, no longer (2 Cor. 5:16). Jesus calls those who believe without seeing, blessed (John 20:29). Let us be satisfied with our unseen God; receiving a blessing for our faith, and not judgment for our idol-making.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A picture of a man in ancient Middle Eastern dress is not a picture of Jesus. Keep yourself unspotted from the sin of idolatry, and worship God with the eyes of your Spirit.