Artists and theologians have portrayed Christ as a skinny, soft-spoken, long-haired, effeminate wimp who died of a broken heart. This is not who He was. The Bible says it is shameful for a man to have long hair and that effeminate men won’t even be in God’s Kingdom (1 Corinthians 11:14; 6:9).
Jesus was a real man.
The real Jesus was nothing like what most people imagine! The Bible says Jesus was a muscular man of perfect health and enduring strength. He kept all the physical laws of good health (Hebrews 4:15). Before His ministry began at age 30, He worked with stone and timber as a carpenter (Mark 6:3). He had well-developed, hardened muscles and tanned skin from laboring outdoors throughout His life. During His ministry, He walked from city to city through mountainous terrain, sometimes traveling many miles in one day.
Artists who paint Jesus as effeminate must not have read John 2, where Christ confronted moneychangers in the temple. When He saw shady business transacting inside God’s house, He took a handful of ropes and whipped the livestock to drive them out. He kicked over tables and chairs and scattered money across the floor. His deep voice bellowed through the halls: “Get out of God’s house, and take your things with you!” This was at the beginning of His ministry, when few even knew who this man was (verse 18). Yet these Jews were too fearful to challenge this strapping, righteously indignant young man.
Before being tempted of the devil, Jesus went without food and water for 40 days—something no frail weakling could ever endure. Before His crucifixion, Jesus was brutally beaten (John 19:1), then nailed to a stake with iron spikes. Yet His health was so robust that He lived through what would have easily killed the average man. He survived until a Roman soldier finally thrust a spear into His side.
Physical fitness is only a fraction of godly masculinity, though. Jesus was a learned man who took His education seriously even as a youth. Though little is recorded about His younger years, there is enough for us to know that, as a boy, Jesus obeyed His parents, Joseph and Mary, and developed an intimate relationship with His spiritual Father in heaven (Luke 2:51-52).
At 12 years old, He entered the temple at Jerusalem and discussed the truth of God with the most educated theologians. Luke 2:47 says those who heard Him were “astonished at his understanding and answers.” They were amazed by how much He understood—and He was 12! As Jesus grew up, He “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (verse 52).
The mere fact that Christ began His ministry at the relatively young age of 30 reveals what kind of character He had as a boy, a teenager and a young adult. By the time His ministry began, Jesus had developed into a persuasive speaker. Those who heard Him were astounded, and those who hadn’t heard Him traveled a long way so they could. People who knew Him as a child were astounded by His eloquence. When He finished speaking, He often tried to withdraw for a quiet moment, yet throngs of people would sometimes track Him down (Luke 4:42).
Jesus also had a commanding presence. His doctrine astonished the masses, because He “taught them as one having authority” (Matthew 7:29). He boldly castigated the self-righteous religious leaders of the day: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” He cried. “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Matthew 23:29, 33). Yet Jewish authorities coveted His popularity. Even Pontius Pilate, who oversaw Christ’s execution, acknowledged that Jesus was a just man who spoke the truth (Matthew 27:24).
Together with steel-like traits of vibrant health, intelligence, decisive leadership, righteous indignation and powerful persuasiveness, Jesus also exhibited many velvet qualities. Above all, He was humble. Scribes and Pharisees criticized Him for spending time with sinners, but He knew that the sick are the ones who need the physician (Luke 5:31-32). The Lord and Master of the disciples instituted an ordinance of humility at His final Passover, and He washed their feet (John 13:13-14). Though He was their Lord and Master, that merely meant He served them all the more. He taught that those who serve most will receive the highest positions in God’s Kingdom. Jesus, the most humble servant ever, qualified to be King in God’s Kingdom.
Jesus was also a compassionate man. No matter how busy He was or how crowded the scene, He made time for the disadvantaged. Christ once left Jericho with a great multitude, and two blind men cried out to Him for mercy. The multitude rebuked them, but Jesus stopped to help. “So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him” (Matthew 20:34).
This genuine compassion for others even caused Christ to weep on occasion. In the case of Lazarus, Jesus cried because of the people’s lack of faith (John 11:32-43).
The gentleness of Jesus is reflected in how He treated children. In Mark 10, after some adults pressed to have Him lay hands on their little ones, His own disciples rebuked the parents. But He reprimanded the disciples, saying we must all become as little children to enter God’s Kingdom. He then took these children up in His arms and blessed them.
This same kindness drew many women to Christ. Some even wept at His feet. At Jacob’s well, Jesus asked a Samaritan woman for water. She was taken aback, since other Jews wouldn’t even speak to Samaritans. Christ discerned that this woman was involved in an adulterous relationship; the way He dealt with her moved her and may have led her to reconsider her sinful lifestyle (John 4:28-30).
On another occasion, scribes and Pharisees were about to stone a woman caught in the act of adultery. But Jesus intervened to prick everyone’s conscience: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7). After everyone left, He told the woman to go and sin no more.
Jesus Christ was the epitome of true masculinity. He wasn’t all steel—lording His authority over people. Neither was He all velvet—weak and effeminate, standing for nothing. He possessed the perfect balance of virtues both powerful and tender, uncompromising and compassionate, blameless and merciful. He was both steel and velvet: strong, bold, courageous, gentle, patient and meek. This godly form of masculinity drew many men, women and children to Him.
The Bible paints the portrait of a real man—the kind of man all men should strive to become.