January 17

Jesus is white, right...

For God, who said “let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6 –NSRV)

Just before Christmas there was a spate of cable and print news stories that focused on the ethnicity and skin color of Santa Claus and, because of an offhand comment of a Fox News Television personality, many of the news stories also focused on the physical appearance of Jesus who like Santa, the speaker claimed, was also white. 

While the news personality, who has subsequently claimed that her comment about Jesus was a joke, continues to back pedal, the historical fact is we simply do not know what Jesus looked like. Our primary source texts for what we do know about Jesus come from the Gospel writers who would not have bothered with describing his appearance even if they did know (remember they were decades removed from Jesus) because that wasn’t the purpose or nature of biographical writing, such as it was, in the time period that the Gospels were assembled. For Matthew, Luke, John and Mark ‘what’ Jesus looked like simply wasn’t a concern – his message was. Still, some would be defenders of Jesus jumped into the media scrum to bash the original speaker and to prove how much more they knew about the topic by claiming that Jesus’ visage was clearly of the “swarthy, middle eastern” variety and that he could not possibly have been a white Caucasian. Again, this is every bit as speculative and unsupported as claiming that our Messiah was a blond-haired, blue-eyed white guy. 

A popular Christmas song tells us that “children in each different place will see the baby Jesus' face , like theirs, but bright with heavenly grace and filled with holy light” and reminds us that it does not matter if you prefer your Jesus ala’ Michelangelo, as an African American figure, or even sporting an Asian appearance and posed vaguely Buddha like (I admit to being partial to the denim wearing ‘cool’ dude you just can’t wait to hang out with as presented in The Shack.). What really matters is that we strive to look beyond our cultural expectations of ‘what’ Jesus looked like so that we can see his true glory and his promise of salvation shining through. 

Dear Lord, help me to see beyond my own expectations of who I ‘think’ you are, or should be, and to instead see that your glory and grace transcends our limited understanding of race or appearance. Help us to truly see you. Amen.

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