What did Jesus of Nazareth look like? This blog post attempts to answer that question from the eyes and talents of some few who have been blessed with a common witness with Isaiah: “When we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2).
Of course it almost seems blasphemous to say that the Son of God has no particular beauty to our eyes, but surely the prophet intended something by it. The full context of the verse adds this: “He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him” (Ibid., New American Standard Bible edition). In other words, your imagination might run away with ideas of what the Son of God ought to surely look like—surely some aspect of his appearance should be super-human. But that’s just it: when you see him, you realize that he is just another man. Depending on the superficiality of your piety, this realization will either be ground shaking or ground elevating.
I Dreamed a Dream
The sacred impetus of what some might call a foolhardy quest—to create a likeness of Christ—was my own witness which I received on January 4th, 2020. In a dream, I was given to observe Jesus arraigned before an earthly magistrate. Who the magistrate was is not important and could hardly have taken any of my attention from trying to memorize the visage of my Redeemer, suffice it to say the man sat on a seat elevated above Jesus and another man, a babbling madman, who was also set before this earthly judge.
I recorded the dream immediately upon waking. What follows is that record:
I just saw the mortal Lord in a vision of the night. I saw a man in a high seat…whose back was to me. Two other men were arraigned before him. One of them spoke some nonsense in his plea of defense to the seated man; the other said nothing. Judgements were given and the silent man was to receive death. Then the silent one spoke as though fire were issuing from his words:
“He speaketh not the truth and thou givest him a few stripes; yet I speak not against those things that are the truth and thou killest me?”
The implied condemnation was more political than I could have sensed without seeing the interaction; it was against a government that did not allow for the free exercise of religious practice and belief, even if that religion should anoint kings besides priests. I felt that this man, whom I then recognized was the Lord, was a patriot of liberty, a champion of justice, a defender of truth. Indeed, the similarity to the spirit that drove Joseph Smith to want to defend and purify the constitution of the United States was the same. In effect Jesus was asking, “So this government is one that punishes one man for the honesty of his beliefs and rewards another for the defense of his lies?”
His was the only visage I recorded: his hair was dark, but not black, and maybe even light-tinted in the sunlight; it was shorter than I anticipated, coming down just below the ears, and it was naturally formed into tufts that seemed swept back and divided into every direction (these ends caught the light); His nose was sharp and long, his eyes deeply set but the color of his irises were bright; fully bearded but not a wild beard and not long. A sharp brow with full eyebrows. He wore a white tunic, I would call it…. All in all, he was the image of Akiane Kramarik’s original painting of Jesus.
For those not familiar with Akiane Kramarik’s painting of Jesus, it is quite an image and has quite a story that bears repeating:
Akiane and Colton
“Akiane Kramarik began having powerful dreams and visions when she was only three years old. She felt compelled to draw what she had seen, even though she didn’t have the vocabulary and didn’t really understand what she was seeing.
“By the age of six, she was painting incredibly complex images based on her visions of Jesus and Heaven. The strange thing was that she had not been exposed to any ideas or thoughts about religion – her parents were atheists, she was home-schooled and the family didn’t own a TV or a radio….
“Akiane Kramarik’s most famous painting is the Prince of Peace, painted in 2003 when she was eight years old. It depicts her vision of the ‘Likeness of Christ,’ and was done using a model—a carpenter who arrived at the family’s door looking for work. Akiane Kramarik says that she had prayed for two years for the proper face to appear.”
This account, amazing on its own right, has an unlikely witness, the article continues:
“[…] Also in 2003, a four-year-old child named Colton Burpo had a near-death experience after being rushed to hospital with a ruptured appendix. Afterward, he described his experiences of being in heaven where he sat on Jesus’ lap and met pre-deceased family members.
“Colton’s family was amazed by the child’s story. He described people and events that he couldn’t possibly have been aware of unless he had actually been to heaven. His father recounted the events in a best-selling book entitled Heaven is for Real, which has sold 30-million copies worldwide, and was also produced into a movie.
“Colton looked at many artistic likenesses of Jesus over the next few years, hoping to find the one that would be the most accurate depiction. Then, in 2006, Colton’s father found Akiane Kramarik’s Prince of Peace on the internet, and showed the portrait of Jesus to Colton, who said: ‘Dad, that one is right!’” (cited here, including Akiane’s appearance on the Katie Couric show).
A Portrait of Christ
After my dream, I scanned through myriads of paintings of Christ trying to find his likeness. Some were closer than others. Some captured a degree of his spiritual greatness, while others began to approach his physical similitude. None, save Akiane’s, fully captured his true likeness.
Finally one day I happened upon a painting by famed presidential portrait painter, John Howard Sanden, titled simply Portrait of Christ. Sanden says that he was commissioned to paint the piece for a church and found a Jewish man who had “a wonderful ‘look’ in his face” after a couple weeks who randomly came to the Christian church that day and agreed to pose as the model of Jesus (more on the man, Jay Friedkin, and the painting as narrated by the author here).
Perhaps what Sanden saw in this Jewish man’s look were some familiar features that also caught my attention: the eyes, the brow, the nose, and the mouth all seemed very close to what I had seen in my dream upon Christ’s face. What happened next may appropriately be described as a mundane miracle.
I began manipulating the image not knowing ahead of time how I would make my vision a reality. A small change here and a tweak there, mixed with strokes of inspiration that would cause me to leave whatever else I was doing and make the change. The final product took my breath away and I kneeled in prayer to give thanks to God for vouchsafing the likeness of the man, even the Son of Man, whom I had seen in a dream to vivid reality before my waking eyes.
I find it to be in the exact likeness of Akiane and Colton’s conception of Jesus when carefully compared. I now present the image, which I have titled The Lawgiver in reference to my dream where Christ, the eternal lawgiver, was humiliated by a mere administrator of man’s laws.
I will precede it with my testimony:
Blessed Are They Who Have Not Seen and Yet Believe
With the eyes and talents of these two little witnesses, Akiane and Colton, I add my humble testimony that Jesus is an actual man. He is not otherworldly or even spell-binding in an unimaginable way, though his intelligence is supreme and power to draw all men unto Himself supernal, it is not for his appearance that these things are so. His power of attraction is not of the flesh as we are accustomed to, but rather a power of spiritual attraction that comes from what he has been through:
“My Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me.”3 Nephi 27:14
When I saw the Redeemer in my dream, he, a man of ultimate inner stature, was forced to kneel before a comparative peasant in spirit. Though younger than this earthly judge and in bonds as a criminal, the spirit inside of Jesus’ body could comprehend the heavens and all their hosts while the magistrate in his high chair could not even comprehend the difference between the innocent and the guilty who stood before his face.
I testify that, having overcome all, Christ lives and stands in flesh and bone on the right hand of the Father in glory. May this image of the likeness which I saw bring a witness to your heart that He lives.
“Look and behold the condescension of God! And I looked and beheld the Redeemer of the world…”1 Nephi 11:26-27