Monday, August 8, 2011

Naked Jesus

 I’ve been looking at pictures of Jesus; lots of them actually. He’s usually a froundy sort, long well kept hair which is not affect in the least by wind (he must calm that stuff). He doesn’t seem to find the humor in his expression that I do.

I walked up to a statue of him in the cemetery once. He was standing on a green marble block, which sat on an ugly green slab of concrete with an even uglier bouquet of fake roses. He stood there, looking up. The God, who came down, looked up, stretching his arms out with the palms also facing the sky. His eyes were heavy, looking very tired and underwhelmed.  His arms were growing a black mildew or moss on the undersides. It loomed on the backs of his hands while his palms remained a brilliant white. That was about all you could see of him. He stood covered head to toe in a matching white robe, draped and covered to the point of reducing Jesus to a shapeless man-like figure, his little feet and sandals poking out the bottom.

For a while now Jesus statues have held a special interest to me only because they’re not like anything else in art.  Marble statues, and other art, from Roman/Greek culture glorify the human.  That the human form is perfect and so drawing it bare and proud, (much to the dismay of every homeschooled family learning art history.) In the opposing corner of the art era is a horde of very well clothed saints and Christ depictions. It’s odd that The Perfect-Man Jesus is drawn with the sake of modesty in mind.  It’s as though he’s ashamed of the way we used to walk around. Like he doesn’t know what’s under all that fabric.  

I wonder what he thought of being human. I doubt he was annoyed at his “earthy figure,” with all its troubles of acne and sweat and nakedness. It sounds silly but do we assume this? That somehow the church of the redeemed humanity is more opposed to God’s highest creation.

Gods have come down to earth before, but only God came down as man.   Not just looking like a man, but human through and through.  Naked and cold, with runny noses, and body odor, the perfect man was born. So instead of this God we paint a man, cloaked in fabric up to his ears, usually miffed or angry, with perfectly still hair, and sometimes glowing out of his head. Are we afraid that if God was truly human that he couldn't do what he said he did?

My favorite Jesus is Michelangelo’s Pieta. There the man who was perfect, resting in the arms of his mother in death. He is the God who died for those he was killed by. He is the God born of a woman. His human body was broken, that we didn’t have to be.  Pieta is the image of Christ laying down a crushed human body, tortured to death, and given to the creation He loved.