A short, roughly-cut black beard, olive brown skin weathered from spending most of his time outside in a warm middle eastern climate, a strong, straight nose and dark brown eyes. From what history tells us of the appearance of men during the time of Jesus, this is an approximate description of how He might have looked. Imagination might embellish with deep creases around His mouth from smiling, slight shadows above His cheekbones from a nomadic lifestyle short on sleep, and eyes like His Father’s, full of compassion and love.
This beloved face is described by the prophet Isaiah 700 years before Christ’s birth, as “having no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.” (Isa. 53:2 NIV) He was an ordinary-looking man of His time, with no distinguishing physical features to set Him apart. Although prophesied as the Messiah, He wore none of the usual emblems of royalty, making His true identity visible only to the discerning eyes of faith.
Three of Jesus’ disciples saw His face in a new light when Christ revealed His glory to them. “There He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as light.” (Matt. 17:2) Peter, James and John were privileged to see Christ in His glorified state, with the light of His holiness shining from His face.
As the time of His crucifixion approached, Jesus steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51 NKJV), facing the completion of His earthly mission with determination, even as He knew the inevitable outcome. Isaiah records the prophecy that the Messiah’s face would resolutely be set like a flint (Isa.50:7) toward the suffering He must endure. Before the crucifixion, His captors spit upon, beat and disfigured His face until it was marred beyond human likeness (Isa.52:14) Those who once knew His familiar face no longer recognized it. Nor did they expect to see it again after His death, yet He was resurrected to life, whole and identifiable by the many people who encountered Him before He ascended to heaven.
The features of Jesus will not always be a mystery to us. Some day we will behold Him in heaven, where we will see His face clearly. “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror, then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part: then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” ( 1 Cor.13:12) In the meantime we have a purpose to fulfill, given to us when we first believed in Christ, our risen Savior. “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 Cor.4:6) We are to let this light shine from our own faces to a hurting world.
Do you want to see the face of Christ? Then look into the faces of those who love and serve Him here on earth, perhaps even your own face, and you will see the resemblance.