The other day, I tried to track down all the Jesuses in my office. I gathered every painting, picture, icon, and action figure. Then I studied the look of Jesus. It made me realize that every artist has to make important choices—Which paint color do you use for his skin? What size and shape do you make his nose and eyes? How much melanin is in the God-man?
We don’t have to guess entirely about the answers to those questions. Just read the words that open the New Testament: “Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. . . . Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David” (Matthew 1:2,5,6).
Do you know these people and the places they came from? Abraham was from modern Iraq, Jacob’s mom from modern Syria, righteous Ruth from modern Jordan, and famous David from Bethlehem in the Palestinian West Bank. Jesus’ genetic story starts with Iraqi, Israeli, Jordanian, and a mixture of Middle Eastern countries and culture.
What might change if we remembered that we have a Middle Eastern Messiah? How might we react to the news stories involving “those nations” and “those people” if we recalled that they were Jesus’ people? What attitudes might evolve if we read the first page of the New Testament and discovered a divine Son with darker skin, a multiracial Messiah, a Jesus who wasn’t white?