What did Jesus look like?

By The Revd Canon Keith James, Canon for Continuing Ministerial Development - 18 April 2019
0R7A3497Copyright © Paul Hurst all rights reserved

In 2001 researchers reconstructed the face of a man aged about 30 years old, from a skull, found in Israel dating from the time of Jesus.
The face was not that of a typical western European man
The face was round and robust
He had Olive, swarthy skin and short, dark, curly hair.
It is likely that Jesus would have looked similar.

Nonetheless, we still don’t know for sure anything about Jesus appearance.
The Gospels don’t tell us whether he was short or tall, wide or skinny, balding or over flowing with curls.
We only know one detail about Jesus appearance – and its crucial:
We know that he was wounded.

On Good Friday we know that he was wounded as he was crucified and when Jesus appears to his disciples on Easter Sunday evening, he shows them the wounds in his hands and side.
That’s how the disciples know that it’s him.

There is another reason why Jesus shows his wounds to the disciples.
They have locked themselves in a room out of fear for what others might do to them; for fear of being lynched.
The Risen Jesus comes to them, shows them his wounds, says, 'peace be with you', breathes on them, so that the life that is in him, is now theirs.
Then Jesus invites them to re-enter the world outside.

This is no easy thing; they will get hurt.
Tradition tells us that nearly all of them died as martyrs.
What makes the difference and what gets them out of that upper room is they have seen the wounded and Risen Jesus and now they breathe with his breath.

We all have fears against which we lock the doors.
But the wounded Jesus and so many Saints, Martyrs and Christians of the past invite us to take the risk and trust that we can live lives not ruled by fear - and there is something worse than being wounded
- which is not truly living.

A journalist once interviewed Desmond Tutu during the apartheid years and asked him if he was worried about the death threats he was receiving at the time.
'Yes - I am worried - it doesn't feel good - but you know there are worse things than dying.'
'Really - like what?' asked the reporter.
'Well, some days I imagine waking up in the morning & saying …
'You know, Apartheid isn't really all that bad.'

Tutu knew that the wounded and Risen Jesus shows us that fear of being hurt need not be the last word on our lives.

There is a story of a man who dies and reaches the gates of heaven and meets the recording angel, who says
'Welcome to heaven - good to see you - just before you enter I just wondered if you could show me your wounds?
And the man looks startled –
'Wounds - no one ever said anything about wounds
- I have no wounds.'
And the Angels eyes widened as he said,
'No wounds - was there nothing worth fighting for?'

Jesus shows his wounds to the disciples
- for there are some things that are worth the struggle
- and what often stops us is fear.
So we, like the disciples, hide ourselves away. But we need not stay there.
Like the disciples, we can step out into a hurtful and hurting world
not without fear, but not ruled by it.
Easter proclaims that there is something bigger and stronger than our fear of being wounded which is the love and life which raised Jesus from the dead and which his gift to you and me.

For details of all the Easter services at Norwich Cathedral click here

Picture by Paul Hurst.

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