Thursday, 14 May 2015

A Scarless Jesus

What initially strikes you about this painting?
Where is Jesus coming from and moving towards?
What is the yellow circle?
Who is the person at the top?

These questions are asked in this art study, of the painting of the Ascension by Dali.

Dali - Ascension
They're not the questions I want to ask. What I want to know is - why hasn't he got any scars in his feet? On his hands? In his side? Is this the real Jesus? If so, where are the holes that Thomas could put his hand in if he wanted to? Why is he so physically perfect?

An unscarred Jesus isn't the real Jesus. He's not taking the realities of my life back to heaven in this picture - he's all glowy and untouched.


The Jesus who was among us - who lived with friends, ate fish and bread and drank wine - that's not him. The Jesus who was among us went to heaven with holes in his hands and side. With the mark of  nails driven through his feet. With lashes carved into his back. With the thorn-holes pressed into his head.

When a child dies on a boat heading across the Mediterranean, then the scarred Christ feels the pain. When somebody dies far, far too young - leaving behind children, or even parents - the Christ who was among us knows what it means.

When somebody is homeless on a street, the Son of Man who had no place to lay his head lays down with them, and prepares a home for them.

When someone is hated for being good, doing good, believing in Jesus as Lord - then their murdered Lord looks at his scars and knows what it means.

The man enthroned in heaven is the "Lamb who was slain", the suffering servant. He took our pain, our separation, our struggles, our humanity and he lifted them up into the heart of heaven. And he did that so that, at his Father's side, every time he appeals for us, he can say - "and look at me."

When I'm at the bottom of a metaphorical well, I don't need a Lord who's shiny, way above me and well out of it, calling down, "don't worry, it will all be fine later." I want the person beside me, holding on to me, telling me he's been through it all himself and he's going to climb out of it with me.

I don't want a shiny, untouchable, remote Jesus. I want the grubby one.


  1. With my art historian hat on I'd like to add: Dail was a Surrealist, so he was intentionally painting dream-like and surreal scenes. He didn't do reality. Also his religious art is generally regarded as among his weakest. Frankly it freaks me out (though his use of perspective in painting Christ is fantastic).

  2. About 35 years ago I heard a talk by someone whose thesis was that it was the lack of scars which made Thomas fall down and worship. I was, and remain, not convinced...

  3. Dear Archdruid, you are not looking for realism from Salvador Dalí, surely? I would refer you to the portrait he did of the hapless Laurence Olivier as Richard III (Shakespearean variety) which came out with two heads - don't ask me why.

    For some reason the picture you show reminds me of David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth. The sort of opus of which Tallulah Bankhead is reported to have said "there is less in this than meets the eye".

    Incidentally, James Thurber somewhere penned a devastating critique of Dalí, his methods and his work, showing that an almost-blind man could see more clearly than most critics with two good eyes.

  4. Don't some believe that at the Resurrection we're all reconstituted whole, as we were or would have been at age 35? Hence it's natural to suppose that after Jesus' resurrection the gaping wounds would have gone - except then we'd have no justification for the Doubting Thomas story.


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