Glory in the Ordinary
“He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.” -Isaiah 53:2-3
“They have a Hollywood-look” is a phrase often used to describe a strikingly beautiful or handsome person. Jesus would never be so described, not at least biblically, even though modern artists have variously portrayed him as quite handsome. Sallman’s famous head of Christ hangs in many homes throughout the world. He is not ugly in this much-copied painting, but we have no reason to believe this even comes close to Jesus’ real features. Those are truly unknown.
Apparently, He was a quite ordinary looking man. We have no references to His looks in Scripture, except Isaiah 53 tells us, “He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him.” Terribly ugly people, on the other hand, draw attention almost as much as beautiful people do. You can actually be so ugly it causes people to stare, like the hunchback of Notre Dame.
Jesus drew no attention to His visage alone. He was obviously nondescript. For most of His life, He was satisfied with obscurity. His young adulthood drew no unusual attention. This is hard to believe since He was uniquely sinless. What does such look like? You have to wonder. Nazareth was a back-water town in a tiny country. Still, it contained the most unique man in all of history. How Jesus appeared to His family and neighbors is hidden from us, but it intrigues us, nonetheless.
At the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, His mother Mary came to Him with a strange request at the wedding of one of their relatives. She obviously knew Him well enough from growing up in her home to expect from Him a solution to the problem. The wine had run out. What did His mother know? What had Jesus’ life revealed to her that she would know He could fix this problem?
As He was growing up into young adulthood, why didn’t Jesus spark attention for His goodness, kindness, and tireless concern for others? How did the only sinless person in history not stand out in His community? He most likely did, but still His neighbors did not clamor to make Him a king. God, His Father, had a timetable in place for something quite other. Still, how did Jesus keep Himself relatively hidden in Nazareth for nearly thirty years?
Can a perfect-in-character one live among us and not be noticed or stand out prominently? Or do we not esteem such in our fellows? Yet, God was at work bringing His plan to fruition, and not even Satan could thwart it. So He lived until He began to draw attention to Himself by His teaching, knowledge, wisdom, holiness, and miracle working. Once He entered public ministry, His authority of speech and His very presence caused people to be mesmerized and enthralled. They hungered for His teaching.
The gospels describe Him frequently as drawing more and more notice from people, and His crowds grew exponentially. His was a personality to be reckoned with; He was a man with a mission. His words and miraculous acts drew hundreds to Him. His obscurity was over! However, then His enemies also came to the fore.
Isaiah described Him as “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” We know this to be certainly true of His trial and crucifixion, but was this also true of His life as a teenager and a young man in His twenties? What caused the sorrows in His life? Did He lose His father to an accident or sickness?
What other sorrows accompanied His earlier life, other than running for His very life from evil King Herod as a toddler with His parents and then being exiled in Egypt? We are not told specifically what sorrows and grief He endured prior to His torturous trial and death.
Very possibly He was overcome with sorrow from the very nature of a sinful world filled with fallen people surrounding Him, this sinless Lamb of God. Perhaps He was grieved by the vast ignorance toward His Father among the populace, including His own siblings. He perhaps was as sad then as He was when He approached Jerusalem and wept over her because of the callousness to her desperate condition.
He made a living as a carpenter. He worked with His father in this business. He had to be one who was excellent at what He did because He pursued excellence in everything. Why was He not exclusively making furniture for kings, for the wealthy? What did He Himself think of the things He made?
We are left to the mysteries of imagining what His life entailed, except for what we learn of His very early life in the infancy accounts, one incident at the age of twelve, and finally what was told us of nearly three years of public ministry. This is exactly what and how much the Holy Spirit chose to reveal to us.
What do you learn from this? Perhaps you learn that your own life should be focused on eternity, rather than earth. You learn what it means to walk humbly with God in this world, while you yearn for what is beyond. You learn you are not here to accumulate things so much, but to develop and nurture God-like character in your life and personality. You learn to put on the same clothing as your Savior’s own nature. You learn that God creates glory out of the ordinary. Beauty of visage is not the most important thing, but beauty of your soul is.
Glory is not in how you look, it lies in who you are. Neither does glory arise from what you do as much as what He does in and through you. We are ordinary people, as we are weak people, but the ordinary is crowned with His glory, and our weakness becomes strong through His strength. Jesus’ very life turns your world upside down as it instructs you in the way everlasting. As the hymn writer says, “Jesus lives, and so shall I.”
“Jesus lives, and by His grace, victory o’er my passions giving, I will cleanse my heart and ways, ever to His glory living. Me He raises from the dust: Jesus is my hope and trust.”
(Third verse of Christian Gellert’s hymn, “Jesus Lives, and So Shall I,” 1757)
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