Skin can be deceiving. According to the movies, sometimes a guy who seems like just a murderous jerk is really a murderous giant insectoid alien under his stolen skin. Sometimes the movie aliens are friendly and charming, but too freaky with their tentacles and ear-splitting yodeling, to be endured without their human skin disguises.
Human skin on real humans can mislead, also. A flawless tan arranged over high cheekbones and perfect curves generates expectations about the person wearing it, expectations that could well be dashed as soon as said person opens her mouth. Likewise, a muddy or pitted complexion, a pasty flesh over awkward limbs may give no indication at all of the beauty and wisdom within its wearer.
And then there is Jesus’ skin. Jesus, the Creator God of the Bible, eternally alive from everlasting to everlasting, designer of DNA and fashioner of every far flung galaxy—this Jesus—at one astonishing point in our history condescended to lay aside much of His glory and put on human skin. This is how we know Him best; as a helpless baby, a young carpenter, a homeless wandering preacher. That skin is comfortable for us to contemplate, because in it He is like us. But do not draw unwarranted conclusions based on His appearance while on Earth. It is dangerous to label Him merely teacher, wise man, Jew, as if those tags could define and limit Him and justify our moving on to some other subject.
Consider the scene in Matthew 17:1-9. Jesus takes Peter, James and John for a hike up the mountain. When they get to the top, Jesus is transformed before them. His face shines like the sun, his clothes are white as light. Then two visitors from another dimension appear beside Him and talk about what, we can only imagine. Peter, in his usual talk-first-think-later style, starts yammering about building tabernacles until a bright cloud appears and God thunders at him to shut up and listen. The disciples are terrified, no kidding, and this was just a brief glimpse of Jesus’ true appearance.
We get a fuller description of Jesus in His uncloaked glory in Revelation 1:13-16. Paint this picture in your head:
“and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.”
John, upon seeing Jesus like this, falls at His feet like a dead man. But Jesus is His same gentle Self, and tells John not to be afraid, it’s just Me, get up now and write this stuff down. John does, but his mind must have been spinning. The God standing in front of him was the same Man who had knelt before John and washed his feet sixty years before. This blazing, brilliant, terrifying Being, holding stars in His hand, was the same Person as the Jesus who had sat in a fishing boat at the edge of the lake and told stories to the crowds.
I can’t help but think that we are all in for a shock in the near future. John warns us about it. He says in 1 John 3:2 that we are children of God (yes, yes, we nod, we know that); and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, (wait, what?) but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. He is, and we shall be, blazing, brilliant, pure and powerful, free, free at last from earthly human constraints, limits and weaknesses, alive forever and overflowing with joy and love and possibilities, able to look at our Savior without falling down like dead men. Able to truly love Him back, understanding at last the depths of the love He displayed for us in becoming one of us “who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)
Think of Jesus tenderly blessing toddlers on His knee, yes. But never forget His true glory, His terrifying and powerful magnificence. Only by keeping this firmly in our minds along with the picture of His sacrifice for us, can we begin to worship and obey Him with suitable awe and humility, and thus live our lives with some measure of proper perspective.