Have you ever thought about the sheer intimacy of Jesus’ appearance to the disciples post-resurrection? In Matthew they take hold of his feet. In John, Jesus tells Thomas “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side” (John 20:27). In the Luke account, he says to them I am not a ghost; I am flesh and blood.
This painting is by Caravaggio, who is famous for his intimate and well-lit portrayals of his subjects. The mood lighting Caravaggio made all the rage in the Baroque period is called tenebrism. It is often described as a “violent” contrast between light and dark. Contrast and contradiction pervade this style, not just in the lighting but in the emotional tenor of the material. His art is both dramatic and mundane at the same time. Much like the resurrection of Jesus.
Now, you Christians may be objecting. Mundane?!!! The BODILY RESSURECTION OF JESUS is anything but MUNDANE! This story is EVERYTHING. It is, after all, the foundation upon which an entire world religion has been built.
And sure, someone coming back from the dead is anything but ordinary. But look again at how Caravaggio shows this interaction: so intimate, so close, so emotional, so….human. This depiction guides us to remember that part of what gives this story such significance is PRECISELY the raw humanity of it all.
In Luke’s telling of the story, the emphasis is just as much on the fact that Jesus came back from the dead as it is on the fact that he returned in his body. In human form. Flesh and bones. Flesh that still carries its wounds. Jesus was fully human and fully divine, and look! So is the risen Christ.
So when we say Christianity is a religion of incarnation and resurrection, we are saying that Christianity’s God is deeply and inexorably intertwined with humanity. Christianity’s God is fully human and fully divine. A wounded God. An initiating and intimate God, that walks among humans and says “come and feel my wounds.”
Christ’s invitation to belief is through the incredibly intimate act of displaying and sharing – not glory, not divinity – but humanity. Woundedness.
And we are called to be like Christ. Wow. What does that mean for us?