We do not know for sure some things about Jesus; because the available information was purely hearsay, ambiguous, sketchy or contradictory. How tall was Jesus? Some say he was six feet tall, some say he was two inches over six feet, some say he was two inches under six feet, some say he was of average height. Anybody who comes up with a given height must have gotten it from thin air, because there is no documentary evidence that Jesus was measured at a given height.
What weight was Jesus, how broad was his chest, what was his skin tone, and was he smooth skin or rugged? All these are questions, indeed trivial questions, that have no certain answers, but what we know for sure is that Jesus was not a stand-out person. He was mightily outstanding spiritually, but people could not distinguish him from his Apostles and disciples in the physical sense.
How can we know this to be true?
Well, you will recall that when Judas betrayed Jesus, the Bible made it clear that Jesus had to be pointed out to the authorities before he could be arrested. The Bible puts it like this: "And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast." (Matthew 26:47-48)
Remember what I said, that people could not distinguish him from his Apostles and disciples in the physical sense. This was true, not just for people in high places in the ruling class, but equally true with the common, everyday people. Recall what Jesus said to the woman at the well: "Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water." (John 4:10)
This Samaritan woman at the well, clearly, did not recognise Jesus.
What is even more amazing, is the case when Jesus separated himself from the crowd, and did something spectacular, and life changing, and the recipient himself did not recognise Jesus.
Here is how the Bible recorded this situation:
"When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the Sabbath. The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? And he that was healed wist not who it was." (John 5:6-13)
As we know, this man who was healed at the Pool of Siloam, later found out that it was Jesus who healed him. But isn't it strange, that when he was healed, he did not even bother himself to find out who it was that healed him?
So we have another person that interacted with Jesus, and did not recognise him.
Allow me another example, that will suffice to show, that people can interact with Jesus and not recognise him.
After Jesus was resurrected, and before his ascension, he appeared to many people all across Palestine. Here is how the Bible recorded one such encounter:
"And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him." (Luke 24:13-16)
We know that nothing supernatural prevented these two from recognising Jesus, and they remained clueless as to who he was, until he blessed the evening meal.
The question, then, is this. If Jesus Christ made a quick visit to earth to see how things were going, and came as, say, an ordinary, jack of all trades handyman, and preaching and teaching in the old manner, would you recognise him?
What we can say for certain, is that the world would not recognise or find ways to help him. And this is not hard to see, because:
1. Jesus was a truth teller. And the world hates the truth, fiercely rebels against it, and regards truth as their implacable enemy. Lies, corruption, hypocrisy and deceit is what the world is all about, understands, and believes, and not truth (John 8:45).
2. Jesus was full of compassion. No one has ever lived that has conveyed compassion to souls like Jesus. Everywhere he went he was overcome with compassion, for women, for the hungry, for the sick and for lost people, (Matthew 9:36). True compassion is not a feature of our world, a world that is full of egotism, and pride, with each man for himself and the devil takes the hindmost.
3. Jesus was opposed to materialism. The world today would deride Jesus as a failure and detest his teachings on everything, and especially his unique answer to idolatrous wealth and riches, (Matthew 19: 20-21). The Bible strongly condemns materialism, "And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." (Luke 12:15)
Believers are not of the world, John 15:19, and being in tune, and in touch with God should make us different. But is this really the case?
Would you recognise Jesus Christ today if:
He was not part of your religious group
One of the curses of religion, I dare say about Christianity, is that so many think that they are the only ones serving God truly, and all the others are fakes. This curse has meant fierce religious wars, and people being killed for being heretics, and others being shunned simply because they believed something different. This malady even afflicted the first disciples, and Jesus soundly chastised them. Here is how the Bible recorded it:
"And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part." (Mark 9:38-40)
It is certain, that some believers would not recognise Jesus Christ today, if he belonged to another denomination; other than theirs.
He was not of your race
I have heard it said that each person sees his God, as belonging to and is part of his ethnicity. There is a word for such foolish thinking, and I won't even waste my time trying to find it. To think that God can be the subject of such wayward thinking bothers me, and sometimes this nonsense emanates from so-called "learned" people.
However, the crux of the matter is this. If Jesus Christ came, and chose to take on the colour of the people whom you deplore, or despise, or don't like, or look down on, or are uneasy with, or whatever, then it is as certain as can be, that you will not recognise him.
Such is the power of stereotypes, and the damage they can do, and why some did not recognised the Messiah; because of stereotyping, "And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46)
He was not of your nationality
I am okay with national pride, that is fine, and I have no problem with someone who is a nationalist, because everyone should love and esteem his country. So what nationality does God favour? Even here in my country, Barbadians, who are normally highly intelligent people, regard God as a Bajan (a local born and raised in Barbados).
Something of this national contempt, of this xenophobia, was seen when Jesus encountered the Samaritan woman at the well who remarked, "Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans." (John 4:9)
If Jesus came to pay a visit, and took on the nationality of your least favourite country, it is without doubt that many believers, many in your country, would not recognise him.
So what would stop you, as a believer, from recognising the authentic, God-sent, genuine Jesus Christ, was he to come and pay you a visit, or you happen to bump into him along the way? Only you can answer that, and your conscience should not be at ease, until you can affirm with confidence, that you will be able, from a pure heart that loves all of God's children, to recognise Jesus Christ if you meet him today.
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Dr. Henderson Ward received his Doctor of Divinity in theology, with distinction, from Masters International School of Divinity, USA, where he is currently a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Ward's career involved pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. Copyright 2016
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