Humanity is obsessed with the glamorous. Mankind naturally gravitates towards the attractive, popular individuals. Notable men are tall, dark, and handsome. Memorable women are head-turners. While we naturally follow certain types of people, it is very intriguing regarding how God looked physically when he showed up on earth in the flesh.
Jesus could have come into the world looking any particular way he so desired, and yet he chose to be ugly.
Let me explain. The prophet Isaiah spoke concerning the coming suffering servant and detailed it this way: “For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; 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” (Is. 53:2-3).
Did you catch that? Jesus was not a head-turner. There was nothing about his external appearance that would have caused others to desire him. No one wanted to look like him. He would have been overlooked in a crowd. He would not have won any superlatives. By human standards, he was forgotten, neglected, and ignored.
No one would have followed Jesus based on external qualities which makes the motivations purer for those who did follow him.
Think about it. If God emptied himself of heavenly comforts (Phil. 2:6) to become a man taking the form of a servant (Phil. 2:7), he determined exactly what he would look like. Receiving our parents DNA and God’s sovereign hand forming us in the womb (Ps. 139:13-16), we had no real say in our appearance. We can update the model but we could not originate it. We had no plans in the blueprint.
Jesus did. He could have looked any way he so desired. He chose between hair color options. He decided the height of his stature and the broadness of his shoulders. He determined his skin’s pigmentation, type of birth marks, and facial alignment. And he chose to be ugly. He was not someone who others would be in awe of and he made himself that way intentionally.
Attraction to Jesus has never been about external qualities but internal worth.
By intentionally making himself someone not to follow naturally, he caused those who would follow him to be committed to a person and not a profile.
Why This Is Important for Us
Since we live in a culture that is obsessed with appearance, since we are a people who are enamored with the celebrity, and since we hold so much stock in notoriety, Jesus flips the entire paradigm on its head. How does this flesh out for us?
- We overlook sinful areas in a celebrity who professes Christ because we think they can do more for the Kingdom than the average citizen.
- We strive to get successful athletes to “preach the Word” at our events but they often speak things of the Lord poorly and this process feeds the animal that the church is dependent upon the celebrity.
- We deem successful people as the models to imitate as long as they barely associate with Christ.
- Many younger-generation-focused ministries intentionally seek out the popular kids in their evangelism with the strategy that if we reach the cool kids, the rest will follow.
- We have pastors who feel called to help other pastors with their fashion so that they can reach more people.
Shame on us. If we reach people for Christ based on celebrity status, will we ever know if they are following Jesus or the follower of Jesus? Jesus chose to be forgotten based on his appearance, but his work and ministry has changed history forever.
Christians obsess with the record-breaking athlete, the attractive celebrity, and the successful businessman, and yet Jesus revolutionized the world as an ugly blue-collar worker.
This Kingdom is not of this world, people.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Distinctive Discipleship. He is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. Travis graduated from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Christian Studies and earned his M.Div. and D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with his doctoral focus on family discipleship.