Color & Culture Of Messiah: Why It Matters

Photo by Natalia Y on Unsplash

hen I say the name Jesus, what image comes to your mind? What does he look like to you? Is he a white European man with blonde hair, ocean blue eyes, speaking the King James’ English, with a British accent? Do you picture something kind of like this?

Photo by Stephanie LeBlanc on Unsplash

If you’re an Asian Believer in The Messiah, does The Messiah look Asian in your mind? If you are an Ethiopian who follows The Messiah of The New Testament, do you curate a brown-skinned Ethiopian looking Messiah, in your mind? Wait a minute, Yoel. Why does it matter? Who cares about the color of our Savior’s skin? Isn’t it of more importance, that he died for our sin? I agree. The fact and reality that God’s Son died for our sins is of perennial significance. Simultaneously, may I propound the idea that all Biblical truths matter? That knowing the color and culture of our Lord and Savior, would bring us closer to him, and perhaps even give us, as his disciples, a more lucid understanding of his lifestyle? If this piqued your interest and you haven’t clicked away, Hallelu Yah! Give yourself a round of applause. If you would, please allow me to articulate and submit an exposition, regarding the color and culture of The Messiah, The Prince of Peace, Immanu El, and why it matters.

Growing up, I was taught that Jesus was white. However, it wasn’t explicit. No one ever sat me down, looked me square in my eyes, and said: “Hey, how are you today? Fine weather we’re having, right? By the way, Jesus is white.” I was implicitly taught. By American pop culture. By illustrations. By pictures. By religion. By Hollywood. By television. By animated children cartoons. The iconography of a white Messiah, was so prevalent, so ubiquitous. I would posit that it still is today. That’s what pop culture instructs us to believe, but what does the Bible teach? Does the Bible give us any insight into what color our Savior was, while he was on earth? Hmm. Let’s look at Scripture and find out!

After they had gone, an angel of Yahweh appeared to Yoseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and escape to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you to leave. For Herod is going to look for the child in order to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother, and left during the night for Egypt, where he stayed until Herod died. This happened in order to fulfill what Yahweh had said through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my Son.”

Matthew 2:13–15

We see here that Yoseph was told, in order to protect the Son of God from Herod’s decree of infanticide (Matthew 2:16), to flee to Egypt. Why Egypt? Aha! You see, Yoel, this directive wasn’t about color at all, but to fulfill the prophecy of Hoshea 11:1. I agree that this does fulfill that particular prophecy. Absolutely. Yet, was Egypt the place to hide solely because Israel and Egypt (North Africa), are geographical neighbors? Once the logistics were ironed out, how did Jacob get to Egypt in Genesis 46:5? Did he use Southwest Airlines? Did put the family on a multi-tiered luxury cruise ship?

So Jacob left Beer-Sheba, the sons of Israel brought Jacob their father, their little ones and their wives in the wagons Pharaoh had sent to carry them.

Genesis 46:5

So there we see the mode of transportation. Egypt is relatively close to Israel, yet what did the demographic of ancient Egypt look like? They looked like the depiction of these hieroglyphics at the 1:10 mark in the following video, no?

The Egyptians in antiquity were a brown-skinned group of people. Let’s think about this. Could Yoseph, Miryam, and the infant Jesus, successfully hide and blend in among these people of color, if they were white? Let’s take a look at a scene from a relatively new Bible show, The Chosen. Let’s take care to fast forward to the 23:05 mark.

The woman of color picking flowers there is the character Tamar, played with virtuosity by actress Amber Shana Williams. As she engages in conversation, she articulates that she grew up in Egypt, and that her father was Ethiopian. Now, history habitually confirms that the ancient Egyptians looked like Amber Shana Williams. Is it plausible that the white characters in this scene, including Jonathan Roumie, who plays Jesus, could hide in ancient North Africa, being the only white people there? If I wanted to blend in with the demographic of people, would I go the the Country Music Awards? Maybe if I sit next to Darius Rucker, I will go unnoticed?

Does anyone else find it interesting that Moses and the apostle Paul were both mistaken for an Egyptians, in Exodus 2:15–19 & Acts 21:37–39, respectively? Okay, Yoel, so what is the point? The endgame of this post is not to slander or dehumanize any ethnicity or people group. Far be it from me to ever do such a lawless thing. Messiah extends salvation to us all. The goal is to liberate us from harmful, white supremacist, toxic religious tradition, that stymies us from getting a more holistic revelation, of who our Savior is. The question remains. If our Savior, The Lamb of God, was not white, but a brown-skinned individual, would you still love him? Would you still appreciate his sacrifice on the Roman crucifixion stake?

The Messiah was miraculously born via means of The Holy Spirit, and lived as a human. Let’s explore this a little bit more. What type of human was he? What ethnic group of people did he descend from?

For everyone knows that our Lord arose out of Yahudah, and that Mosheh said nothing about this tribe when he spoke about priests.

Hebrews 7:14

The scepter will not turn aside from Yahudah, neither the commander’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to him the obedience of the peoples will belong.

Genesis 49:10

We see from Scripture, that our Savior descends from Judah, or Yahudah, an English transliteration from Hebrew. Speaking of Hebrew, can we talk about the name Jesus? I grew up saying Jesus. I would often pray in the name of Jesus. As I got older and researched, more, I was educated about something. Did you know our Savior was a Hebrew Israelite, born to Hebrew speaking parents, from the Hebrew tribe of Yahudah, having a Hebraic mindset? Simply put, there was no letter J in his Hebrew language, or Hebrew Alephbet. In fact, the English language wasn’t innovated just yet, let alone the English letter J. He has a Hebrew name, but what is it?

She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Yahshua, for he will save his people from their sins.

Matthew 1:21

In my Hebrew culture, names are so important. You see, when we read our respective copies of the Hebrew Bible, you’ll notice that many Hebrew names are theophoric. You can see us Hebrews bearing the Name of our God Yahweh, in our Hebrew name. This happens with the name Yahshua! Yah is the short, poetic form of the Name Yahweh. So, the Hebrew name of our Hebrew Savior means Yahweh Is Salvation! Isn’t that beautiful?! For his name is not self-aggrandizing at all, but points one to God, Yahweh. My name, Yoel, means Yahweh Is God. Neat, huh? But this isn’t about me, back to our Savior! The culture of our Israelite Savior, Rabbi Yahshua, is Torah, which is Hebrew for Law. Yes. Our Savior rested on the Shabbat.

Now when he went to Natzeret, where he had been brought up, on Shabbat he went to the synagogue as usual. He stood up to read.

Luke/Elior 4:16

He wore tassels, per Numbers 15:37–41.

A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years approached him from behind and touched the tsitsit on his robe.

Matthew/Mattityah 9:20

He celebrated all of the Holy Days in Leviticus 23:1–44, including Passover!

Every year Yahshua’s parents went to Yerushalayim for the festival of Pesach.

Elior 2:41

To you all reading this, especially those of us who Believe Yahshua is The Author and Finisher of our faith, I beg of you. In this time of social distancing and beyond, let’s take care not to distance ourselves from the color and culture of our Savior! After all, shouldn’t we walk as he walked?

A person who claims to be continuing in union with him ought to conduct his life the way he did.

1st John/Yochanan Aleph 2:6

Lover of Yahweh. Disciple of Rabbi Yahshua The Messiah. Israelite man. Reader of The Hebrew Bible. Writer.

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