Saturday, January 5, 2008

No Beauty that We Should Desire Him

He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
--Isaiah 53:2

I'm aware that Isaiah 53, which Christians regard as one of the clearest prophecies regarding the life and ministry Jesus Christ, is widely interpreted by Jews as a reflection on the life and mission of the Jewish nation. By the popular Jewish interpretation, this text in verse two is an acknowledgment of how Jews have historically been despised and rejected by the peoples they have interacted with.

From a Christian point of view, this is a remarkable statement when applied to Christ. Some of the Christian commentaries discuss the fact that we have no actual physical portraits of Jesus dating from the time he lived on the earth. The few textual descriptions of what Jesus looked like are considered spurious. While confessing that they have no idea what Jesus looked like, some commentators have suggested, on the strength of this messianic prophecy, that Jesus was not physically attractive.

But commentators have also made the far more intriguing suggestion that the text is not a comment on his physical appearance at all, but rather an observation that there was nothing about Jesus' outward physical appearance that revealed his inward spiritual nature. To look at Jesus was not to instantly recognize him as the Messiah. Such truths about him could only be revealed by other than "flesh and blood."

But isn't that true about everything in this world? Isn't there an outward, physical appearance to everything, that reveals nothing of the underlying spiritual truth behind all of creation? Aren't we all flesh, blood, body, with no hint on the outside of the profound spiritual nature housed within that body? Can't we all become obsessed with that outward nature, and forget the more elusive truth of our existence?

So who would recognize the spiritual nature? Who would have recognized the beauty in Christ that we should desire him?

Those who focus not on what the eyes see, the hands touch, or the ears hear, but on what we learn when the heart listens.

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