"Was it really like that?" we ask when we see a picture or photograph of something. Often there are paintings of Jesus (Isa Masih) in Bibles or storybooks, that show him as a white man with blue eyes. Of course, there were no cameras at the time when Jesus lived, so no-one knows what he looked like, or the exact colour of his skin. He was a man from the Middle East But we can be sure that, he probably had dark skin, brown eyes and wavy dark hair.
Born in Asia but lived in Africa
Jesus was born in Asia, in the country called by the Romans Palestine. When he was a child, his family became refugees in Egypt, North Africa. They had to escape because their lives were in danger from a dictator – the cruel ruler of their country. Jesus was not a European, he never even visited Europe! Ancestors of his people came from different tribes and countries including Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan. So Christianity did not start in any Western country.
Groups of Christians met in many parts of Africa and India to worship God only a few years after Jesus died. Many people living in China, Mongolia and Japan 800 years ago believed in Jesus. Europe is a place where people more recently have turned away from God. There are many more followers of Jesus in Africa and Asia, than there are in Europe.
Does it matter?
So does it matter what colour Jesus was?
The Bible says1 that he was a person like us, except that he never did anything wrong. So if we make pictures of him, it is good to show him as a person from our own country – even wearing the sort of clothes that our people wear. A picture that shows Jesus like this is telling something true. It is saying to us that Jesus can be a friend, a brother, a part of our family. It shows that he understands how we feel inside – our problems and worries.
Jesus wants all of us2 to join his family, whatever tribe, group or country we belong to. Only when we belong to him can we be complete and whole. Without him, there is an empty space in our lives – nothing else can fill that space, even though we try to find things that will do it.
This is explained in the Bible's letter to the Hebrews:
1) "Jesus, the high priest that we have, is able to understand our weaknesses. When Jesus lived on earth, he was tempted in every way. He was tempted in the same ways that we are tempted but he never sinned." (Hebrews 4, verse 15)
2) "The One (Jesus) who makes people holy, and those people who are made holy, are from the same family. So he (Jesus) is not ashamed to call those people his brothers and sisters." (Hebrews 2, verse 11)