For those who have a relationship with Jesus, no matter how fragile or tangential, they will have an image, a visual representation, of Jesus around which that relationship will coalesce. In her article for The Conversation, Robyn Whitaker, lecturer in biblical studies at Trinity College in Melbourne, gently challenges what many might consider to be the default visual representation of Jesus in the West, that of a “light-haired, blue-eyed, and very white” man.
The reality, of course, as Whitaker points out is far from that readily accepted picture; Jesus was a brown-skinned, Middle-Eastern Jew. Yet across the history of Christianity, that image has been less than well accepted in the popular imagination and, for better or for worse, has only relatively recently developed a sound reception in academic circles.
Whitaker concludes her column with these powerful and timely words:
This Easter, I can’t help but wonder, what would our church and society look like if we just remembered that Jesus was brown? If we were confronted with the reality that the body hung on the cross was a brown body: one broken, tortured, and publicly executed by an oppressive regime.
How might it change our attitudes if we could see that the unjust imprisonment, abuse, and execution of the historical Jesus has more in common with the experience of Indigenous Australians or asylum seekers than it does with those who hold power in the church and usually represent Christ?
Perhaps most radical of all, I can’t help but wonder what might change if we were more mindful that the person Christians celebrate as God in the flesh and saviour of the entire world was not a white man, but a Middle Eastern Jew.
Read the entire article – it will be well worth your time: