"He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not."
Isaiah 53:3 (ESV)
Most illustrations of Jesus show a rugged looking but very attractive man. The hair, the beard, the robe, the sandals – everything neatly in place and ready for public presentation. Contrast the popular image with Isaiah’s less-than-flattering assessment of the Suffering Servant’s appearance.
Isaiah sums it up in two words: “despised” is the opposite of honorable; a profane mockery of the genuine article, describing the cripple lambs that Israel tried to pass off as pleasing to God. “Rejected” is unable to pass inspection and substandard. No one in their right minds would ever consider that this One would be the agent of God’s saving work.
If you scour the Gospel accounts, you will find next to nothing about Jesus’ physical appearance. When there is nothing said, the general rules of literature tell us there must have been nothing exceptional about Jesus’ looks. You might even say he was quite ordinary and plain; no descriptive adjectives required. Isaiah invites us to consider that maybe Jesus was just plain ugly.
And that is at the heart of the story: Christ on the Cross is God Made Ugly; ugly because Jesus allowed all of your sins and misdeeds to be laid upon him. So ugly that God could not even stand the sight of his own Son, but instead condemned him to eternal death.
That’s what was necessary to pay for your sins. That’s what was necessary to accomplish your forgiveness. Jesus made ugly is what makes you beautiful in God’s sight, when you turn to Jesus and put your faith in Him.
So many Native men, women, and children feel ugly, not physically, but emotional. Generations of trauma and abuse have diminished their self-confidence and ability to see themselves as the children of God. It is our job to, first, understand we are beautiful in God's sight, and then, to reflect that back to those around us.
Thank you, Jesus, for being made ugly for me. Amen.