Spanish and French archaeologists excavating at the ancient Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus have discovered what could be one of the earliest known images of Jesus Christ. Believed to be painted by ancient Coptic Christians, this image might be dated to the 6th century.
This fascinating artifact provides us with a greater understanding of what ancient, Egyptian Christians believed Jesus may have look like. Whether or not the Lord actually looked like the person depicted in the painting, is another matter. The importance of this discovery – should it turn out to be authentic – is that it gives us a window into the past, showing us what some of the earliest Jesus followers thought the Lord looked like.
The painted cloth also shows a ‘centuries-old’ fascination with the appearance of Jesus Christ. Like our sixth-century, Egyptian sisters and brothers, we 21st centuries Christians are fascinated with Jesus’ appearance. A few years ago a Discovery Channel program attempted to three-dimensionally re-create the face of our Lord using the Shroud of Turin.
What does Jesus look like? From time to time I wonder about that. But it’s not really an important question for me. Here’s why. Last Sunday was our first worship service at the bridge Presbyterian Church. Standing before a pack room full of people – eager to launch a new church – I saw the risen Christ, alive and well in the faces and the commitments of the people who are calling themselves the bridge Presbyterian Church. I saw the risen Christ alive in through our worship; through our commitment to serve others; through our passion to share the good news with the people of Brunswick Co.
It’s interesting to see early Christian depictions of Jesus painted on papyri but I don’t need them to believe in the risen Christ. I saw our Lord alive and well in our growing new church. My experience reminded me of the words of Jesus who said to his stunned disciples shortly after the resurrection: “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)
If you are looking for a picture of the risen Christ, come check out the bridge Presbyterian Church. We worship at 10:00am at 497 Olde Waterford Way in the Waterford shopping commons. See you soon!