Its a painting that draws the viewer to the wound.
The Caravaggio painting ‘Incredulity of Thomas’ grabs your attention.
You pause. You look at the expressions on faces, the movement of hands and light. You wonder where you would be in the picture.
Feelings wash over you.
Caravaggio takes his story from the post resurrection encounter of Thomas with Jesus.
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” John 20: 19 – 29
Resurrection challenges us with wonder and amazement.
The earliest followers had a variety of responses to the news. Some ran, some reported to others, weeping, celebrating, puzzling.
[pullquote]The Resurrection declares ‘I will be who I will be’.[/pullquote]
What would you do right here and now if you heard news that Jesus was alive and in bodily presence?
I suppose we would be like those early disciples. We would wonder, question, and be amazed. I suppose we would also run to Google to see if we could get any news.
We would of course investigate.
I wonder if Caravaggios painting would now include CSI, Sherlock Holmes, Bones and any number of other crime investigators. All peering in at the wound, wondering, puzzled. All asking how could this happen? We saw him die in the most horrifc means of execution known to man yet here is alive!
There is one particular quality of all these crime dramas that the writers put in.
They all have a conclusion.
By the end of the show you know who did it, why and how. If you don’t know at the end of this episode then you will discover in the next episode. Questions will be answered and there will be a conclusion.
In some shows the crime is resolved by the detective getting everyone involved in the crime together in a room and then they unpack the story of the crime. This person did this, and then this other person did that. The crime is revealed in a brief dramatic summary. Everything is explained and put to rest. The handcuffs are brought and the villain is led away.
We like to be able to put things to rest don’t we. We want answers to the questions we have.
Take for example the recent disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. We still don’t know where that plane is. We don’t know what happened.
Just place yourself though in the shoes of the families and friends of those missing. They can’t just put a nice ‘The End’ on this mystery. They can guess, make assumptions, blame this or that, but no one knows what exactly happened, and what is worst is that they may never have the answer they are crying out for.
As we read the various narratives of the story of the resurrection we come to some conclusions of ‘I don’t understand how that happened’. The Bible, and indeed life, is full of stories where we don’t have enough information to fully understand.
I was listening to a Podcast the other day called On Being and the podcast was talking about the story of Moses encountering the burning bush. In this story Moses encounters a type of resurrection. A bush is on fire, yet it is not burned up. Wood seems to be always there to be burnt but it is never consumed. Always regenerating for the fire to destroy. In fact some think that this experience went on for seven days.
Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. 3 Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” 4 When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
13 But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” Exodus 3: 1-6; 13, 14
In this podcast Avivah Zornberg, a scholar of Torah and rabbinic literature was being interviewed, and she says this name “I am who I am.” in Hebrew is Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh, and literally it just means, I will be who I will be
We like to have our understanding of how God works, we like to have loose ends tied up, we like to have questions answered. Yet God says ‘I will be who I will be’
The Resurrection declares ‘I will be who I will be’.
Faith requires a surrendering of ourselves to the God of ‘I will be who I will be’.
There are people however who won’t let God be that abstract. They demand that loose ends be tied up, to investigate the wound further. There internal security needs answers.
How do you handle mystery?
Do you look into the wound and demand answers or do you look into the eyes of the wounded one and fall in love (another mystery).
I have never been a great investigator. We need them, we need people who are passionate about finding answers to mysteries. I think of the great advances in science and health because someone has dug deeper.
I seriously wonder though does it help a genuine intimate relationship to unfurl when you have an investigative attitude.
I want to look deep into the eyes of the Lover of my soul rather than his wounds. I want to be like John, resting my head on Christ’ chest.
I want to wash his feet, anoint his hair with my tears of repentance and love.
‘Who are you Jesus’?
‘I will be who I will be’.
Questions to consider and leave a comment
- What challenges you in this picture of Caravaggio?
- How do you feel when you don’t have all the answers?
- When God makes the statement ‘I will be who I will be’ what happens to your questions, your doubts, your fears?