For those who think images are nothing more than images, you might find this of interest, a quote (p181) from the Consecration article (by Donald Swearer) in The Encyclopedia of Buddhism:
The cult of relics, images, portraits, mummified remains,
and other representations of the Buddha and
Buddhist saints reflect a thaumaturgical belief that the
miraculous powers associated with extraordinary spiritual
attainment can be objectified in material form.
Thus, consecration rituals incarnate the Buddha and
ARHATs not primarily as idealized spiritual mentors
and personifications of the dharma but as wonderworkers,
protectors, and grantors of boons. Consecration
rituals, therefore, infuse into these icons a variety
of powers associated especially with the mental and
physical attributes acquired through ascetic practices,
Since from the outset the Buddha was venerated not
only as a teacher but as a miracle worker, representations
of the Blessed One can be seen in similar terms.
The cult of the power of relics and images should not
be understood as a later, degenerate form of Buddhist
piety but as one of the ingredients of Buddhist belief
and practice from its earliest days. Consecration rituals,
in this regard, can be seen as a practical means by
which this aspect of Buddhism spread and flourished
throughout Buddhist Asia.