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FIRST-PERSON: What Samson — & Jesus — looked like

KENNER, La. (BP)–I know what Samson looked like. The children’s story books in our church library depicting the Bible’s strong man as an early version of Arnold Schwarzenegger have it all wrong. You know the image—muscles on top of muscles, bulges everywhere, veins apoppin’, long hair flowing in the wind. But, alas, he did not look that way at all. Not even close. The reason we know this is that….

People wondered about the source of his strength. They watched him slaughter thousands of the hated Philistines bare-handedly and stood in awe. Where did he get such strength? Samson could not have looked like Mr. Olympia with a 46-inch chest and 32-inch waist and biceps the size of my thighs. Had he done so, everyone would have concluded his strength came from his great muscles in the same way that works for everyone else on the planet. That’s why we must conclude that….

Samson looked like any other average Joe. Just your ordinary citizen. Don Knotts, maybe, with a pony tail. You recall the secret to his strength lay in a Nazirite vow he had lived under since birth, requiring him never to enter a bar or a barber shop. Judges 16 narrates his foolish dalliance with the treacherous Delilah and his fall from grace. And that’s one more reason why we say….

We know what the Lord Jesus looked like. To be more precise, we know what Jesus did not look like. But first, let’s remind ourselves that it was for good reason that…

The Bible does not describe Jesus’ appearance. We ought to give thanks for that every day. Imagine how we would distort and misuse such information. Jesus had wavy black hair and an olive complexion, stood 5 feet 10, carried 185 pounds of muscle. That sort of thing. Anyone looking like Jesus would feel superior, everyone else inferior, entire racial groups would feel excluded, and the plastic surgeons would have a field day reconstructing bodies into a physical Christlikeness. As it is, every culture on earth reads the New Testament and pictures the Lord Jesus as one of them. That’s exactly how it should be.

The one thing we can say with certainty about Jesus’
appearance is that….

Jesus looked like everyone else. He would not have been chosen by Hollywood to play Himself. No shining face, radiant robes, piercing eyes, perfectly shaped head, with hair to die for. (I’m remembering the time when Charlie Chaplin was living in France and entered a contest for the best imitation of himself. He lost.) We may know that Jesus looked like the average person because….

The prophet said so. “He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him” (Isaiah 53:2). Understanding that such prophecies originate in heaven and are handed down to the prophets, we have no difficulty believing this to be an accurate statement about Jesus’ earthly appearance. Especially when we read the entire 53rd chapter of Isaiah and see how stunningly precise were the rest of the predictions. Jesus’ earthly body would look quite ordinary. That’s why we are not surprised when….

We turn to the New Testament and see that no one recognizes Jesus. At His baptism, the only way John knew Jesus as Messiah was that God had told him it would be the person on whom the Holy Spirit manifested Himself (John 1:33). When the dove hovered over Jesus, John had his man. Otherwise, he could never have picked Jesus out of the crowd. Bruce Larson says this also explains how….

Jesus disappeared in the crowd at Nazareth. Luke 4 describes how in response to Jesus’ keynote sermon in his hometown synagogue the people rose up and dragged him out to the brow of a hill to kill him. Then, inexplicably, we read, “But passing through their midst, He went His way.” In his commentary on Luke, Bruce Larson says, “… my favorite theory is that He walked right through the crowd simply because He was so ordinary. He was there someplace but indistinguishable. They couldn’t pick Him out.” He goes on to conclude that “if, by divine revelation, you were told that Jesus would appear at your church some Sunday morning, you probably wouldn’t be able to find Him.” People could not find Him in His own day. You may recall that….

On Jesus’ last night on earth, the religious leaders bribed a disciple to identify the Lord for the arresting officers. As many times as they had seen Jesus teaching on the streets and in the temple, they still could not pick Him out. I find this remarkable and revealing. Among the hundreds of possible lessons here, perhaps the most important is that….

Jesus was truly one of us. During His years on earth, He tasted the human experience to the fullest. He felt the loneliness, the pain, the tiredness, the hunger and thirst, the rejection, the impossible demands, the unreasonable expectations, the ignorance, the suspicion and the temptations that He knew would be the lot of anyone who chose to follow Him. That’s why the writer of Hebrews boldly proclaims that….

“We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” The writer concludes from this that we may therefore “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4).

Poor Roger. He was back, sitting in my living room on another Saturday night, pouring out his hurt and the pain of rejection. Mildly retarded, Roger was grown now and held down a job at a fast-food place. He drove a pickup truck around town and wanted so badly to have a girlfriend. Someone told him he should not date married women, so Roger had stood on the street corner downtown that day asking the women who walked by, “Are you married?” They pulled back in fear and rushed away. Through his tears, Roger said, “Joe, why doesn’t God know how it feels to be me?” I said, “My friend, you can ask me a lot of things I do not know. But I know the answer to that one. He knows precisely how it feels to be you. Everything you are feeling now — all the rejection and loneliness and hurt — He has felt. He has been where we are.” And that’s one more reason why….

We make so much of Jesus. He has been where you are. He knows how it feels to be you. He is one of us. He is a Savior unlike any who have ever claimed the title. Jesus Christ is Lord. He is worthy of all worship and praise.
Joe McKeever, pastor of First Baptist Church in Kenner, La., is a columnist and longtime cartoonist whose work is carried by Baptist Press.

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  • Joe McKeever