Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Ugly Side of the Son of God

Charles Spurgeon wrote in his commentary on Isaiah that Christians have read Isaiah 53 'hundreds of times.' Spurgeon lived in the 1800's and his assumption may have had a spark of validity in his day, but I dare say that very few followers of Jesus today have read Isaiah 53, much less studied it, more than a handful of times. This chapter from Isaiah is the greatest Messianic prophecy within the Old Testament.  It is because of a lack of knowledge as to what Isaiah 53 teaches about the Messiah, the Son of God, that a caution about the upcoming movie Son of God is in order.  I join with others in the hope that a film on the life of Christ will lead others to faith in God's grace through the Person and work of His Son. However, one of the points missed by the movie makers is the Person of Jesus Himself.

Isaiah the prophet says Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, was physically unattractive. There is no mistake in what the inspired prophet meant when he described the physical looks of the Son of God. Listen to the prophet's words:
" a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him." (Isaiah 53:2).
The new Hollywood motion picture entitled Son of God is definitely not faithful to the Scriptures in the physical presentation of the Son of God. Jesus on the screen looks like a cross between Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp. Watching "Son of God" in a theater might make young ladies wish to "kiss the Son" (Psalm 2:12) physically, rather than to embrace Him in faith. In our literal society, where the visual visceral always seems to trump eternal realities, one might walk away from the move Son of God being more enraptured with the good looks of Jesus than the good news of Jesus' Kingdom.

Lest you say my objection to the beauty of Jesus is petty, let me give you three reasons why it is important we understand "he had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him."

(1). In the real Son of God we have the "fullness of the Deity" in bodily form, and since both "males and females" are made in the image of God, the idea that God looks like Charlton Heston of the 1950's, or Burt Reynolds of the 1960's, or Robert Redford of the 1970's, or Sylvester Stallone of the 1980's, or George Clooney of the 1990's, or Brad Pitt of the 2000's, is to miss the glory that the Son of God represents in His body every human being from the beginning of time, including the weak, the deformed, the emasculated, and the ugly--both male and female. God is spirit, and when He chose to inhabit a human body prepared as a Substitute for all mankind, He chose a body with no beauty.

(2).  God humbled Himself and became a human being, not for the glory of what man seeks in this life, but for the eternal glory of what only God can give in this life and the next. The "life of God in the soul of man" is the greatest gift any man or woman can be given. This life has nothing to do with external beauty, which fades, but rather an inner beauty which is independent of facial features and bodily perfections. One would hope that Christians understand it is the inner beauty of the Son of God--the very life of God--that is needed by each of us. Were Christians to long for the inner beauty of Christ, then we would be more concerned with justice over jaundice, mercy over make-up, and our attitude over our abs.

(3).  It is what the Son of God gives to us that forms the beauty of His life, not how the Son of God looks to us. Again, the Son of God movie, by all accounts, will faithfully represent the life, death and resurrection of God's Son, but when the Son of God lived and died for us he looked "like a root out of dry ground." Those of us in Oklahoma understand both dry ground and a root plucked from dry ground. The skin of the root is brittle, the root is deformed in its looks, and compared to other roots from fertile, wet ground, there is absolutely nothing special about it. The message conveyed by the good news of Jesus Christ is that God is in love with those who have little in this life that attracts others to them in terms of beauty or power, but He is able to transform each of us into a person with the inner qualities of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

I realize that Hollywood cannot make a movie with a leading actor who is ugly. However, I would hope that Christians would not be duped into believing that their Savior looked like the actor portraying Him in the movie Son of God. It might be wise for those of us who are a part of American evangelical Christianity to at least acknowledge that the Son of God movie is more cultural than biblical in the presentation of Jesus Christ's looks.

It is faith in Christ's substitutionary life, death and resurrection, as well as a belief that the same power which raised the Son of God from the grave can actually transform me into the beautiful Son of God -- on the inside--that makes the good news of the gospel of Jesus such really good news.


Unknown said...

Wade this is a fair observation. I agree that the attraction must be spiritual and not carnal.

David Panzera said...

I agree the caution has full merit. I don't see evidence that they were specifically going out of their way to avoid accuracy as much as it is clear to me that they operated in ignorance of it. If anything it is a proper admonition to be a good student of that which you are going to present as the devil enjoys misleading with tools handed him by those he seeks to destroy.

Connie Threlkeld said...

Pastor, I agree with your observations. My hope and prayer would be that many will come see the movie based on the "attraction" of a beautiful face, and the actor is indeed beautiful to look at, and find much more. For Christians, the movie shouldn't be a place to learn anything about our Faith. For non-christians I hope it's a starting point, a questioning, a first inkling that there is more to know about this Jesus.

Wade Burleson said...



Tom said...


I wonder if I my understanding of who the “real” Christ is, is not warped by my understanding, initially instilled in me at “Sunday School” where I was told many “Christian Myths” about Bible characters. Similarly, many of the songs that are used during worship before the “teaching lecture”/sermon in services today reinforce suspect theologies that overly override the given wisdom of the spruiker with their 24/7 format. The songs are frequently repeated at any given time of worship because they are liked by the “crowd/adherents” who can sing them with gusto from memory. Ask these same people to recall what the preacher man said during the sermon the week before and a deafening silence can often ensue.

Simple things like the timeline of the story of David and what God considered his sin was, is gravely distorted. The story sequencing word “then” which people assume has an immediacy characteristic, masks the passing of up to eight years which is only revealed from considering the dry uninteresting facts found in 1 Chronicles 3:5.

Now if adherents who have read and reread the Bible “many times,” or at least bits of it, can get the story wrong, should we be finding “fault” with a film on the Son of God when our own understanding may be suspect as well.

Does not this film provide an opportunity for Christian adherent to interact with the general public on the topic of the “Son of Man” where we are able to fill in the gaps and misconceptions presented in this film from our own “limited” understanding?

At least it forces us “Christians” to be honest with ourselves and to re-evaluate our “theological” understandings such that we can bring correction into our own lives. If this is all the film achieves, then it will have done its job for the kingdom of God.


Tom Ross

Victorious said...

What a wonderful post, Wade! Though I agree wholeheartedly with your 3 points, I also remember Victor Mature in the movie "The Robe" making that story a reality for me. He certainly wasn't what we'd call handsome by today's standards.

Also of importance to me in my search for God, was the Broadway play, "Jesus Christ Superstar" which portrayed Jesus in blue jeans. That was a Jesus I could relate to. It brought a far-away person I was unable to relate to into a real, flesh and blood Savior.

I don't know if I articulated that clearly, but I think we'd be surprised what the portrayal of Jesus by anyone might accomplish in the life of one who is searching.

God can use strange things (burning bush, tongues of fire) to get people's attention.

Thanks for this post!

Amy Rodgers said...

Have you read the Letter of Lentulus? It is at least a glimpse of how his contemporaries may have looked.

Wade Burleson said...

I have not! Will look it up, Amy.

Rex Ray said...


Do we know what the resurrected body of Jesus will look like? Just as John the Baptist won’t be carrying his head on a platter, I don’t believe Jesus will have the scars in his hands or on his back.

I believe we will know each other as we are known but will we look the same as when we die, or will our resurrected body be perfect?

I believe Jesus will have the most beautiful face of all. Just a thought.

Wade Burleson said...

Great point, Rex.

My humble opinion is all the imperfections in the body during this life are gone in the resurrection.

No deformities, no crooked backs, no missing limbs, etc...

I also agree Jesus' countenance will be extraordinary.