How would you describe the crucified body of Jesus, as depicted by George Englert? Gaunt? No; not nearly strong enough, not harsh enough. "Emaciated" is the word that comes to my mind, and even that falls short.
In this highly stylized work, Englert depicts the scene from John 19, where Mary, Jesus' mother, and John, the Beloved Disciple, stand together at the foot of the cross. In this passage, Jesus commends his mother into the care of John (vv. 26-27). But that tender blessing is not the moment Englert portrays. Jesus looks to the heavens, not to the figures below him. He looks up and cries, "It is finished" (v. 30).
Notice the figure of Mary. Think of the countless paintings where the Madonna cradles her son in her arms. Now look for her arms here. They are missing; she is helpless - unable to comfort her son, unable to ease her grief.
She can only stare at that emaciated body. As I, too, stare at Christ's wasted body, two other scriptures come to mind:
"He emptied himself" (Phil. 2:7). In this great hymn, Paul praises how Christ emptied himself of his divine nature to take on human form, and then "became obedient even to the point of death." Englert's emaciated Christ has emptied himself - fully.
"He gave himself" (1 Tim. 2:6). In yet another hymn-like passage, Christ is praised as the "one mediator between God and humankind, ... who gave himself a ransom for all." In Englert's
painting, the figures of Mary and John are sharply delineated from the background, using long dark lines. But the figure of Jesus has no sharp edges. As the detailed view shows, it almost seems like pieces of his body are falling away, as he gives more and more of himself for the sake of others.
John's raised arm draws our gaze back to the body of Jesus, emptied and given up. Not a bad place for our gaze to be focused during this season of Lent.