Ah Caravaggio. Here’s another old master painter I’d love to read up on more. Revolutionary, he was, as well as, it seems, deeply troubled by his circumstances. Whereas for something like a century artists had idealised the religious experience, Caravaggio painted scenes of Christ and his disciples so, well…ordinarily.
I don’t mean ordinary in that his skill or style were ordinary, but look at those disciples there, as Thomas puts his finger into Jesus’ side post-resurrection. Far from depicted as the ideals of masculinity and indeed humanity as others would’ve done at the time, they’re just a bunch of ordinary, balding, wrinkly and somewhat befuddled looking blokes. I don’t know Caravaggio’s motivations in painting them in this way, but he hit the nail on the head. I was wandering through a park in my city, which sloped down a hill, and as I looked over the trees and rooftops into a dusty haze towards apartment buildings, an old church spire, and off over streets of old terrace houses towards the distance, I felt very small. And that just in this city, much more this planet and whole universe. One ordinary life amongst so many. Not powerful, not noble, not influential. Just a guy. one story lived in the midst of millions of stories carrying on around me, and one that doesn’t feel particularly a dent in the great scheme of things.
But that’s exactly how God likes it, it seems. The way some churches bang on (not all though) with their fancy robes or their slick concert style light/laser shows, you’d think following following Jesus was all about getting BIG and rich and powerful and impressive…just like any other social group. I guess I just wanna put it out there that I’ve been finding it comforting to know that God, although powerful himself, does what he does through what looks weak and lowly and pathetic. Nothing impressive about a naked man gasping for breath on a cross, as the life leaks out of him. Nothing in the ancient world more embarrassing, shameful, pathetic, even disgusting as that. But by it God rescues and restores us and makes us his children, if we just trust in Jesus. Nothing particularly hyped up or impressive about me, no flashy supernatural experiences, trumpets blasting from the heavens or anything – an ordinary guy, but an ordinary guy for whom death has lost its fearsomeness, whose future has hope, whose guilt’s been forgiven, and who was living all about himself and whose life has changed direction. And that’s not actually ordinary at all.