What do you see?
What do you see in this image? It’s hard to make out what’s going on. There are some women in the foreground, crying. Looking closer, there are farmers, geese, cats, soldiers, some children with their grandmother and other children fighting. It’s a busy scene.
Right in the centre, lost amid the bustle and hubbub of life, a figure carries a cross. In the distance, the crowd on the hill awaits a spectacle, a distraction from the drudgery of life. The painting is titled, Christ Carrying the Cross.
What do we see at Easter? A holiday, a tradition, family time, chocolate? It’s easy to miss Jesus weaving his way through the centre, quietly enduring insult as he stumbles toward the cross. His is not an obvious story.
Easter is a drama of seeing and non-seeing.
Who did the crowds see passing them by? Many gazed on, but only for a while, before drifting away. Others looked with menace. A criminal who hung beside Jesus saw his innocence. A centurion exclaimed: ‘Surely this man was the Son of God.’
Later, at the tomb, Mary thought she saw a gardener. But recognising Jesus, she went to the disciples: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ Peter got up and ran to the tomb. Looking in, he saw only linen clothes. Yet he went home amazed. John says, ‘He saw and believed.’
Others saw a conspiracy and a stolen body. Thomas demanded proof: ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, I will not believe.’
As Christians, we look to the cross with hope: there is something to see here, which opens our eyes to life in a new way.
Still confused by what they had seen take place, two disciples walked down the road. Their eyes downcast, they hardly noticed the stranger walking beside them. Their feet dragged through dusty villages, where the locals kept on their daily grind: plucking chickens, feeding dogs, chasing ill-mannered children. ‘Their eyes were kept from recognising him.’
Arriving at their village, the stranger went ahead, as if going on his way. ‘Wait a moment,’ they called. ‘It’s getting dark. Come and stay the night.’ A small kindness: a place to sleep, a meal.
At the table, Jesus took a loaf of bread and gave thanks. ‘This is my body, broken for you.’
It was later at the table that Jesus took a loaf of bread. He gave thanks: ‘This is my body, broken for you.’ Suddenly their eyes were opened. ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road?’ They saw everything in a new light.
What do you see at Easter? In the broken body of Christ, we recognise the radical love of God that interweaves through this chaotic artwork of life, with dusty feet, bringing hope to those who see him amongst the chickens.
As disciples, we extend God’s kindness as we walk beside others, giving of ourselves as if to say, ‘This is my body, broken for you.’ In this fragile centre, we will discover life and have life in abundance.
Sam Curkpatrick, Easter 2019
reo: A Journal of Mission and Ministry
(edited by Sarah Bacaller and Sam Curkpatrick)