Last night, as part of our meditation, I showed the young people a number of different images of Jesus from around the world and over many centuries. Included in the images were depictions of Jesus as an Oriental, as Native American, as Black, and other dark-skinned peoples.
When we were finished, one young man came up to me and asked, “Not to be racist or anything, but how come some of those pictures showed Jesus as Black? I don’t get it. What color was Jesus?”
I explained to him that people have always imaged Jesus according to their own culture. In fact, most images of Jesus that we Americans are accustomed to depict Jesus as Anglo, which of course, he was not. Jesus was a Jew. Some Jews are light-skinned and others are darker-skinned. The important thing for us to remember is that, while the historical Jesus was a Jew, the Risen Christ transcends race and nationality. This is why people of all cultures can depict Jesus as “one of their own.”
This further reinforces the notion that all people are created in the image and likeness of God and it is evidence of the inculturation of the Gospel…the Gospel taking root within specific cultures and speaking to that culture from within.
Very good response to the young person’s question!In the past, when I’ve been asked a similar question, I’ve pointed out that Sacred Scripture does not contain a physical description of Jesus. (Perhaps looks were not important to the Gospel Writers?) What Jesus looked like was not important when compared to what He taught and especially what He did for us, namely His death on the cross for our sins and His Glorious Resurrection!
Paul, good point about the non-description of Jesus in the Gospels. His physical description matters not when compared to who he is and what he has done for us!