Look at the proliferation of images of Jesus Christ on the Internet.
Just type the parameters into a search engine and you will get everything from images of illuminated manuscripts hundreds of years old to renaissance paintings and statues which depict Christ to kitsch Catholic ‘sacred heart’ illustrations to profoundly blasphemous modern day images which defy description. Few people would actually worship these images, but many, and I don’t just mean Catholics here, would take some of these images to be actual depictions of what Jesus looked like when He was on earth. I have seen a lot of the very effeminate white long haired Jesus illustrations on evangelical Christian’s websites. I do not know what they were thinking but it makes me very uneasy when I see this kind of thing. We need to be particularly careful what we post on the Internet.
The Shroud of Turin is another source of images of Jesus and another source of controversy amongst evangelicals. Some are outspoken in their defense of this artifact (if it is indeed as old as it is described). I personally don’t believe this item is a legitimate depiction if for no other reason than that scripture tells us that Jesus had a head cloth and a body cloth. I don’t buy the new interpretations that his resurrection burned his image into the material. Secondarily though I don’t believe that anything that causes human beings to worship an image is legitimate scripturally. (Deuteronomy 5:8) And there are many who treat this object as sacred and therefore treat it as ‘untouchable’ going so far as to say that if you don’t see this it as legitimate then you aren’t really a believer. I understand the desire to believe in something which, especially with recent technological innovations, could possibly prove Christ’s resurrection empirically. But do we need new empirical evidence? We have not needed it for the past 2000 years and people have been getting saved all that time. If it was necessary to see an image of Jesus for salvation would God not have provided it sooner?
Not one of the apostles, including Paul, ever described Jesus’ physicality on earth. John the Revelator describes Jesus thus:
14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
Revelation 1 NKJV
And this description of Jesus in heaven matches that of Daniel’s vision in the tenth chapter of his book.
5 Then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz:6 His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude.
The disciples however didn’t even talk about how they felt when they were around Him, what it was like talking to Him, what His eyes looked like, nothing whatsoever which would appeal to our human carnal need to know what it was like to experience Jesus face to face. There is a reason for that. God is not going to give us some definitive description so that we can become enamored with that and be lead away from focusing on our actual relationship with Him. In particular, we need to know Him in the Spirit, not in the flesh because we walk by faith not by sight. I don’t think the Father is going to want to give fallen human beings any more reason to worship a deity of their own making even if they do fashion it after an image depicted in scripture. That sounds contradictory, but even when there are actual descriptions of things in the bible men take them and mess with them anyway. Hollywood has been doing it for decades.
Recently there have been various depictions by young people who have apparently seen ‘visions’ or gone to heaven and met Jesus. Colton Burpo, a four year old who apparently went to heaven and had a conversation with Jesus endorsed the painting by New Age artistic savant Akiane Kramarik. When he saw her painting of Jesus, he testified that this was indeed the Jesus that he saw in heaven. However, Colton’s story of heaven and Jesus has huge holes in it. I won’t go into them here, you can read another discussion of little Colton’s story here and the author goes into much more detail of why he could not possibly have been transferred to heaven. Akiane Kramarik claims she is a Christian but in true New Age fashion, she also endorses other religions and does not now have an exclusive faith in Christ, but is very much akin with eastern mysticism and occult influences . For more reading about how Akiane’s ‘faith’ is not actually Christian go here.
In short, I believe that any time you see a physical depiction of Jesus by a human being you are being led up the garden path. Demonic forces are just as capable of transforming themselves into any image that will deceive or mislead us.
If it is possible that there might be exceptions to this, they would be far and few. One I can think of off hand was the story of an American missionary who was being tortured by terrorists in Iran. He was detained for nine weeks and came to the end of his strength and was getting ready to commit suicide to put an end to his torment when Jesus appeared to him in his cell to encourage him and uphold him and give him strength. Now this man was a christian already and a strong believer. His pain was so great he was being led into sin by the enemy, and Jesus appeared to give him a way to overcome his temptation. This is scriptural. What is more, several of his prison guards were won to Christ because of his testimony, and I presume these men were Muslims. So overall, this story has all the hallmarks of an exceptional event which occurred to save both this man and his jailers. It is worthy of being described as a Pauline experience.
Please note on this video, and I truly hope you watch it for yourself, he does NOT describe what Jesus looked like, only what Jesus said to him. Even in the midst of a vision of His saviour, he does not focus on physical attributes, only on the glory and power of God.
Jesus himself, the real person, told his disciples that one of the signs of his return was that people would say ‘here is Jesus’ or ‘there he is’, but that we should not believe them.
23 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand.26 “Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 2
Matthew 24 NKJV
This scripture can be used against images of Jesus or those who tell us they saw Jesus come to them in their rooms or they visited heaven. Too many say ‘this is what Jesus looked like’ and describe contradictory images.
There is actually only one scripture which tells us anything about what Jesus would look like and it is from the Old Testament. The prophet Isaiah was not given a vision exactly, but he told us who Jesus would be. And remember that the book of Isaiah is one of the most verified authentic historical documents we have. There were over 20 copies discovered amongst the Dead Sea Scroll find at Kumran. So Isaiah tells us this:
Who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
3 He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
4 Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;
He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
So He opened not His mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment,
And who will declare His generation?
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.
9 And they[a] made His grave with the wicked—
But with the rich at His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.
10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.
11 He shall see the labor of His soul,[b] and be satisfied.
By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many,
For He shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great,
And He shall divide the spoil with the strong,
Because He poured out His soul unto death,
And He was numbered with the transgressors,
And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors.
Isaiah 53 NKJV
This is all we need to know about what Jesus looked like, and all we need to know about who He was when he walked on this earth and who He is now.
THIS is my Jesus. Everybody else can have the accounts of various members of the public, Christian and non-Christian. They can have the creepy Jesus paintings, they can have the weird image from the Turin cloth. I know who my saviour is, and I know what He looks like. I am made in His image after all. Though I have never seen Him, I know Him. Not as much as I would like, but I know Jesus. And most importantly, He knows me.