dispatches to and from

nathan f. elmore

Dispatches to and from faith, culture, and things in between

Good Friday | The Face of Shame

Designed by the artist David Clayton, a close-up of the face of Jesus from a medieval-style crucifix hanging in the chapel of Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts in Merrimack, New Hampshire

 

{Holy Week}

Good Friday || The Face of Shame

Hebrews 12:2

...looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. {English Standard Version}

 

The writer of sacred scripture has enthusiastically ended this particular exhortation to believers with a bold, confident flourish. Of course, if anything, people who receive divine revelations are sometimes known for their exceeding confidence. But given the precise, excruciating, breathless moment captured by the artist's image above, Jesus' triumph and God's victory would seem -- by most any metrics -- altogether unlikely in the waning hours of Friday evening.

This image, then, perfectly encapsulates the accepting and even humiliating posture in which the Jesus-follower is to face his or her world, too, especially in the face of experienced injustice and painful suffering. There is a known quantity (and quality) here that is not readily available to the naked eye of reason. Here, overt weakness and decided foolishness are seen.

Through this frozen Jesus -- a still life, and a life gone still -- believers are reminded (if we allow ourselves the thought) of a frightening and unsettling reality that is intently staring, as it were, at each of us. On Good Friday we look for, look at and look to the author and perfecter of our faith, whose eyes are actually wide shut. Jesus is gone. He has gone and lost sight of the world.

I suppose this begs a rather contemplative question of the believer and unbeliever alike: How can anyone change the world from that position?

Furthermore, while he did see fit to face down the shame -- to despise the shame, as the scripture writer proclaims valiantly -- he also necessarily absorbs the shame in the theological paradigm of Christian faith. It is this exact act that might reasonably be said to diminish some of that much-ballyhooed "joy that was set before him." On Good Friday, at least, everything has indeed conspired in dramatic fashion to hide his eyes from his own face. And at this point, his own sight is entirely too much shame to bear.

Behold.