Second Sunday of Easter

The Risen Christ by Bramantino (Bartolomeo Suardi) — Mixed media on panel, 109 x 73 cm, 1490. Image by Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid.

April 16, 2023 Lectionary Texts — Year A
Acts 2:14a, 22-32 • Psalm 16 • 1 Peter 1:3-9 • John 20:19-31

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Image description: His body glowing white and draped in a sheet of linen, the risen Christ looks directly at the viewer. He stands under an odd-looking stone-built structure that feels incomplete or even damaged. Beyond this is a landscape with more curious elements including a white orb representing the moon and possibly the cross-like mast of a ship. The wounds on Jesus’ hands and side appear faintly. His curly red hair and beard are parted in the middle – a nod to the Christian icon tradition where these elements indicate Christ’s dual nature: he is both God and man. The cheekbones of his face are sunken, his eyebrows raised over red and teary eyes. Jesus’ face is full of emotion. Tears roll down the right side of his face and drip onto his chest. The positioning of the hands, one pressed to his chest and the other open and down at his side, and the open mouth give the impression Christ is about to speak.

Here’s what David was seeing in advance; here’s what David was talking about — the Anointed One would be resurrected. Think of David’s words about Him not being abandoned to the place of the dead nor being left to decay in the grave. He was talking about Jesus, the One God has raised, whom all of us have seen with our own eyes and announce to you today. — Acts 2:31-32

Protect me, God, for the only safety I know is found in the moments I seek You. I told You, Eternal One, “You are my Lord, for the only good I know in this world is found in You alone.” — Psalm 16:1-2

Through faith, God’s power is standing watch, protecting you for a salvation that you will see completely at the end of things. You should greatly rejoice in what is waiting for you, even if now for a little while you have to suffer various trials. Suffering tests your faith which is more valuable than gold (remember that gold, although it is perishable, is tested by fire) so that if it is found genuine, you can receive praise, honor, and glory when Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King, is revealed at last. — 1 Peter 1:5-7

On that same evening (Resurrection Sunday), the followers gathered together behind locked doors in fear that some of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem were still searching for them. Out of nowhere, Jesus appeared in the center of the room.
Jesus: May each one of you be at peace.
As He was speaking, He revealed the wounds in His hands and side. The disciples began to celebrate as it sank in that they were really seeing the Lord.
— John 20:19-20

Eight days later, they gathered again behind locked doors; and Jesus reappeared. This time Thomas was with them.
Jesus: May each one of you be at peace.
He drew close to Thomas.
Jesus: Reach out and touch Me. See the punctures in My hands; reach out your hand, and put it to My side; leave behind your faithlessness, and believe.
Thomas (filled with emotion): You are the one True God and Lord of my life.
Jesus: Thomas, you have faith because you have seen Me. Blessed are all those who never see Me and yet they still believe.
— John 20:26-29

I do not know that I have seen a single other work of art depicting the risen Jesus in such a state of obvious emotion. There is that expression that fits what I see in his face: “I’ve been to hell and back.” Or to borrow an expression from my teenage children, “Jesus been through it.”

Being quite familiar with the John passage of Jesus appearing to the disciples in that locked room, I think I just assumed he was coming to them with utmost confidence – the cool, calm, and collected kind like a strong leader would.

Discovering this painting by the Italian artist, Bramantino, it immediately challenged my conceptions of Christ’s demeanor — his spiritual and emotional state post-resurrection. This has brought me into a place of curiosity about everything that happened to him and how he actually experienced it through his human side. Is it not possible he came to his disciples with this level of unrestrained emotion?

What new thoughts do you have in exploring this painting?

Practicing Visio Divina:

  1. View the artwork
    What do you see?

    Note shapes – color – style – movement
    What stands out for you?
    What are you curious about?
    What questions do you have?
    Hold back any feelings – judgments – opinions
  2. Read the accompanying scripture and look over the artwork again
    What connections do you make?

    Between the image and text?
    What is coming to mind from your own experience?
    What feelings are rising in you?
    Are you uncomfortable with something?
    There are no right or wrong answers
  3. Read the scripture again and explore the artwork a third time
    What do you hear?

    What is God saying to you?
    What do you wish to speak to God?

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