What Color Is Jesus?

“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”                                                                                                                                                                                                            Isaiah 53:2

On my kitchen windowsill is a Christmas card I received a couple of years ago. It is a simple but colorful drawing of the Christ Child in the manger, with several shepherds kneeling in adoration. All the people in the picture are jet black.

Am I offended by the lack of historical accuracy? Not at all. Nor have I written back to the sender, saying “By the way, Jesus was Jewish, and the shepherds were Jewish, and that picture makes no sense.”

Nope. I love that card, because of who sent it and where it came from. The greeting inside is a hand-written note from one of my friends in Uganda – “To my favorite author.” Elsewhere in the note is written in big letters, “UGANDA LOVES YOU!”

Lately there has been some heated discussions regarding the question of “what color was Jesus?” This question was the basis for accusing whole cultures of racism, western European types in particular. It seems that some European paintings of Jesus show Him looking, well, like a European.

But then, why not?  I would expect pictures of Him in, say, a Mexican church to look more Hispanic. In Asia you can find pictures of Jesus looking Chinese or Indian.

There’s a reason for this, and I’m guessing those reasons were more theological than historical.

These artists were probably aware of where Jesus lived and died, and yet they decided to paint Him in a way that made Him more relatable to the people of their own culture. These artists weren’t ignorant. On the contrary, I would respectfully suggest that their critics are the ones who might be missing the point.

And what is the point? What is the message of the Incarnation?

The point is, the Son of God – God Himself – left His home in heaven to become one of us (“us” being Humanity).

As a Man, Jesus went through the same experiences we go through. He was hungry. He got thirsty. He experienced weariness and pain and loneliness. He knew fear and stress and the sting of other people’s hatred. He empathized, He grieved, He knew anger and frustration. These are things experienced by every person that ever lived, every color, in every era, and in every corner of the earth. He came for all of us – for black and white, Hispanic and Asian, Middle Eastern and Native American. And for every race, every nationality, every ethnic group, He took our sins upon Himself and took them to the Cross, where He died for the forgiveness of all of us.

One of my favorite outreaches, the Jesus Film Project has been showing the gospel in video form for decades. Their movie, “JESUS,” the dramatization of the gospel according to Luke, has been translated into more than 1800 languages! Until the pandemic shut down the world, small teams of technicians and evangelists would trek into the remotest places, set up their equipment, and show the film to whole villages at a time. The people would gather to watch and be mesmerized to see the gospel story played out in their language! Now of course when Jesus was on earth He didn’t speak in the tribal languages of these obscure groups, but that doesn’t matter to them. They watch, they listen, they understand – and they believe! 

SIDE NOTE: If you are a linguistics expert and want to get nitpicky about the language Jesus really spoke, you might want to rent “The Passion of the Christ,” where the dialogue is in the original Aramaic. (You might also want to make sure the subtitles are turned on.)

The Apostle John’s description of Heaven in Revelation describes a multitude of people that could not be counted, people “from every nation, tribe, people, and language.” (Revelation 7:9) I’m guessing none of those people got hung up what Jesus looked like when He walked the earth as one of us. Who knows? When we enter into eternity, He may show Himself to us in a glorious new color we have never seen before in this life! (Yes, my imagination can go wild when I think of entering eternity after leaving this finite world.)

The Incarnation is a profound reality, one well worth reflecting on.  John 1:14 says,     “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” In these days of arguing about anything and everything, let’s focus less on the flesh and more on the Word.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for leaving the throne room of Heaven to live in this fallen world as one of us. Thank You for offering Your life for all of us as the perfect sacrifice. You paid the debt we could not afford, so our sins might be cancelled out and we might live with You forever. And now, as we place our faith in You, we can look forward to eternal life in Your glorious kingdom, along with Your children from every nation, tribe, people and tongue! What a glorious day that will be!  Lord, help us to focus less on the superficial and more on what’s truly important – how much You love us, how much we love You, and how much we should love one another in Your name. Amen.

57 thoughts on “What Color Is Jesus?

  1. Jesus is for everyone, so everyone has interpreted him differently, even though he was an ancient Hebrew. My favorite is the really buff Korean Jesus… I don’t know why it tickles me so much, but they made Him really strong. I’ve searched online, but I still don’t know why that is.

    Anyway, I don’t put much importance to His skin color, but more so what He taught. Take care! 🙂

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I did a bible study once where the author described what sort of life Jesus lived and the kind of work he likely did alongside his father as a Carpenter. She said Jesus was likely extremely healthy and strong due to his line of work. Intriguing…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the idea that every person on earth is able to see Jesus as “one of us,” whoever that “us” might be. The ultimate miracle of the incarnation is our ability to say, “He is MY savior.” Thanks so much for this inspired post.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. That’s the way to think of Him, Michelle. It was once pointed out to me that as we get to know Jesus intimately, we may reach a point where we can’t picture His face. When someone is coming closer and closer to us, we may see their face more clearly. But then when there’s an embrace, we don’t see their face at all. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “These artists were probably aware of where Jesus lived and died, and yet they decided to paint Him in a way that made Him more relatable to the people of their own culture. These artists weren’t ignorant. On the contrary, I would respectfully suggest that their critics are the ones who might be missing the point.”

    Preach it! Bless you, for posting this article.

    I agree that the most important thing is for humans to feel a connection to Jesus’ humanity, rather than knowing precisely what he looked like.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. It bothers me as much as characters in films being recast as different races: not at all. Lol. Your assessment that cultures will paint Jesus to look more like them because IT JUST MAKES SENSE is correct, I think. Why would South Koreans pray to a Mexican Jesus?

    Besides, in most of the old paintings of Jesus my grandparents had he looked like he could have been from the Middle East anyway.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I love thinking Jesus had the physical characteristics and spoke the same language of every single person he encountered! If black, He was black, if Asian He was Asian, etc. We are all made in the image of a God after all! Great blog! Really enjoyed reading it!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Interesting thought, Cecilia. I read somewhere that legend had it, to those who believed in Him, He was beautiful, but to those who didn’t, He was ugly. Makes sense. I have known people who seemed to change in their attractiveness (one way or another) as I got to know them better.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have not heard that legend but it does makes sense and I love considering it. I am adding that to my list of questions for when I get to heaven! I also agree with your last observation. 🤗🤭

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I really liked your post! One of the reasons for the command to not attempt to make an image of God is that an image is too limiting, too narrow, too incomplete. Yet we all are made in His image. How perfectly magnificent He is! Really gives us something to try to live up to.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Well Expressed, what color is Love on a Cross. The Europeans brought into a race that never existed, there is no white or black race. So, the indoctrination of manipulation to make others feel less human. We can not just overlook that. I think why make him any color. Make no graven image. To begin to paint a photo of him, moves human to fleshly be in competition. He is all in all.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. As I told Michelle, it has been pointed out that as we get closer to someone their face might get clearer for a while, but when there’s an embrace, we can’t see it at all. This observation kept me from being bothered about the fact that I can’t visualize Jesus as easily as I could as a child.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Well said, Ann. ❤ In the book "The Color of Water" by James McBride his mother tells James that God is “the color of water.” She wants him to know that he is loved and valued regardless of his skin color. So she explains that God has no color preferences, since He is the color of water, i.e. all colors.

    Liked by 1 person

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