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.

117 thoughts on “What Color Is Jesus?

  1. I have always had a Christian upbringing but no one has ever told me anything about the color of Jesus. But I have always seen it as a union of all colors. Like when you look at the sun and the light is so strong that it seems to be made of all colors together. But I am not worthy to look at Jesus, even if I have recently been looking for him and I like to observe him in the images, as if for me he was a friend of the past that I have rediscovered. It’s a strange thing for me but I think maybe I haven’t appreciated many things in the past and so now it’s time to enjoy his presence. I am a little sparrow looking for her crumbs. I’m not worthy of him. I feel so small and he is so big.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fairy Queen, yes, He is so big, and we are so small. You remind me of the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:21-28. Jesus challenged her, right to have her request granted, perhaps seeing if she would give up. She responded, not trying to elevate herself, but boldly arguing that “even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.” And Jesus commended her faith and granted her wish.
      Our relationship with Jesus isn’t based on whether we deserve His love – we don’t. But based on the fact that He loved us enough to die for us – that is our security and our claim to the right to come into His throne room as His children. You may be a little sparrow, but He loves His little sparrows! ❤ (One of my books, "Sparrows," tells the story of various people – God's "sparrows" – and how He took care of each of them during 9-11.)
      This is a late reply, I know, explained in my reply to others whose comments got hidden. :/

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The problem is that we are sparrows but there are cruel birds of prey that threaten us, chase us, capture us and this is nature. We are like doves in the midst of wolves and wolves change, they just devour us and then throw away the bones. I light lanterns, I wait, I try not to forget that perhaps there is a small flame of hope, that we can still save ourselves, even if the wolves are always lurking. I look at that flame and pray or try to talk to Him and tell Him what I am suffering.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this perspective. I do always wonder who is “right,” but I think when we actually see Him all of the arguments will fade away as inconsequential. He was a man, like you said, who lived among us as fully human and relatable is so many ways regardless of skin color and nationality.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I like to think of what we will someday see when we meet our maker is the divine beauty that will shine through the spirit. It will be glorious. I imagine it as being something unrecognizable to us that are alive as human beings today. I look forward to that day! Amen to your post – I loved it!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Very well said. Jesus was part of the human race, a Jew, but we all have a personal relationship with him and it is one of mutual love. Asking what color Jesus is – is like asking what is the color of love …

    Liked by 1 person

  5. At this time, when diversity (and not unity) is being emphasized, it was refreshing to read why you believe the color of Jesus has been shown multiple ways throughout the ages. Thank you for your opinion..

    Liked by 1 person

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