Jesus Christ was seen walking along the beach in Daytona Beach Shores on April 22, or at least someone who resembles His popular image.
And no one was anywhere near him as even he practiced social distancing. But to the woman who saw him and captured His picture, that lone figure represents hope in a time when the entire world may need just that.
Patti Hebert lives in Daytona Beach Shores and lives/works with two special needs individuals in her supportive living home. She is a member of Tomoka Christian Church, and is president of the Sunset Civitan Club, now in its 102nd year.
On that day she had just finished reading Psalm 91 from the Bible and then viewed an online video by Karen Wheaton, “Help is on the Way” to help her prepare for a speech she was going to give later via telephone as part of her Women of the Word group.
Ms. Wheaton is a Christian minister whose music and preaching has inspired listeners to pursue God for many years.
The video ended, Ms. Hebert happened to gaze out her ninth floor condo onto the beach below, and then she saw him.
“Just when I got done with my study, I looked over the beach, because it’s so beautiful and it’s so peaceful out there,” she said. “I looked down and I thought ‘no way’. I thought I was seeing something and I’ve never had a vision, but I thought maybe God is giving me one and he is trying to tell me something. I was blinking to see if it was a real person and, sure enough, it was. I went to the railing where the balcony is and just as I got to the railing, he looked up just for a minute right at me and he waved. And then he put his head down and kept walking.
“I watched him for quite a while. He had on a long robe, just like you’ve seen pictures of Jesus in a long robe. He had long brown hair and a brown beard and he was carrying a staff just like Jesus did to walk,” Ms. Hebert said. “It just freaked me out. I literally cried. I didn’t even see any footprints in the sand. I was like I’ve got to get a picture of this because no one is going to believe this if I tell them. That was really intense for me. When I spoke on the phone (afterwards to others) about it, I’ve had people weep. I believe whoever that person was loves the Lord and it was a loving gesture what he did. It gives people hope and that was his message. (And that) help is on the way.”
She added, “What I have taken from the whole pandemic is that it really has brought people back together like none other. Families are doing things together; they are being creative. I really feel this pandemic has brought people back to where God wanted us to be anyway. To be more kind, to love one another. Look at all the people who have come to the aid of other people. There are food pantries everywhere now and young people are helping old people. Even famous people who are rich are giving loads of money to help in this time of need with the economy the way it is. I think that as we come out of the pandemic, we are going to be better because of it. I think we are going to be OK. I get from everybody that was just a sign of hope.”
Fr. Chris Hoffmann, pastor of Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church in Port Orange was questioned about the sighting.
“When Jesus was raised from the dead all of his closest disciples and apostles did not recognize him immediately,” Fr. Hoffmann said. “He was in a glorified body, no longer bound by the limitations we all have. Yet, he was able to eat with them, speak, and even had a physical frame that allowed Thomas to touch the wounds in His hands, feet and side. When did the Apostles recognize Jesus? When he showed them His wounds. When he broke bread with the disciples at Emmaus. When he called Mary Magdalene by name.
“Many people have had times when we wonder if God is present or if He cares about us. Then we get signs that God always knows our needs and cares for us. Sometimes that comes in the form of a voice heard or even in a man dressed as Jesus walking on the beach. But what makes faith real isn’t having Jesus on the beach. It is in seeing beneath the façade of an old man and his wife silently walking on the beach holding hands. It is a child sharing a treat with a classmate. It is a teenager helping an elderly neighbor take groceries out of their trunk. It’s at those times that we understand that Christ is found in many disguises, if we only have the eyes to see.”
Of course, the popular image of Jesus probably isn't correct. Some historians believe Jesus actually had much shorter hair and a shorter beard, for example.
Joan Taylor, professor of Christian Origins and Second Temple Judaism at King's College London, wrote an article for BBC News Magazine about what Jesus probably actually looked like.
She stated he is the most painted figure in all of Western art, recognized everywhere as having long hair and a beard, a long robe with long sleeves (often white) and a mantle (often blue). “This familiar image of Jesus actually comes from the Byzantine era, from the 4th Century onward, and Byzantine representations of Jesus were symbolic -- they were all about meaning, not historical accuracy,” she stated.