A few weeks ago I came across this article about describing how forensic anthropologists have determined what Jesus looked like.
Initially, instinctively, I almost recoiled at the picture. He was just so. . .ordinary looking. And why did they make Him have that kind of "deer-in-headlights" look? Couldn't they have done more to make him look wise rather than a bit flummoxed? Couldn't they have had him smiling at least, made Him look more inviting? Where was the charisma? Where was the charm?
And then I remembered: "He had no beauty or majesty that we should be attracted to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected of mankind, a man of suffering and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces, he was despised and we held Him in low esteem" Isaiah 53:2-3
And I realized: Never mind the science, this may be the most Biblically accurate picture of Jesus we've ever seen. As I continued to study the picture, I was struck by the extent to which we have sought to remake Christ not even in our own image, but in the image of our idols. Even after he came, lived a peasants life and died a criminal's death, we still want a conquering hero, a good-looking man that reflects the pinnacle of our cultural values. That idolatry becomes so lodged in our faith, that it becomes almost sacred. But this picture. . .this picture demands that we see Jesus as he declared Himself to be rather than what we would wish him to be.
I was also reminded anew through this picture, that Jesus truly became a human being. That somewhat blank gaze is that of a real man. Someone who got tired, hungry, distracted, dazed. And I was able imagine that face laughing, crying, angry, and at peace. I imagined how one could sense divinity not in his charismatic mug, but shining through his ordinary face. More than any of the cute little Baby Jesuses that we see in Nativity scenes this time of year, in this picture I saw the Incarnation.
Finally, I was awed and humbled and amazed by the familiar Gospel story,
Read the article in Popular Mechanics for details on how they developed this image. Despite certain caveats, I think you'll find the science seems pretty sound.
"Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace"