It felt like the search for the holy grail to get there. On the other side of this surprising hike through Vatican and art galleries we were to encounter the sistine chapel–one of the greatest artistic accomplishment from Michelangelo.
The sad truth is that I don’t remember much of it, except that I was stared at the ceiling my eyes with my contacts were giving me a fierce headache. And even if I had remembered the experience, I’m not sure it would have been as shocking as another painting I saw.
Because as you walk what seems like miles (and maybe it even was several miles) through the hallways filled with art relics, we rounded a corner and came across another picture painted by Michelangelo, a far less famous one.
It was Jesus on the cross completely naked.
I turned my face away in horror. It was just so…not right. But that’s what almost assuredly really happened. The Romans did the most to bring pain, humiliation and shame.
It’s why the disciples stood a ways away (Lk 23:49), and Jesus’ brothers and sisters were absent. It’s why pretty much only his mother was at the foot of the cross. Than and one brave disciple named John, who cared more for the heart of Mary than the shame of naked Jesus on a cross. It’s for this that I think Jesus saw in John one who was willing to sacrifice to care for Mary.
“When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home” (Jn 19:26-27).
This story matters to me recently again. I almost don’t even like to think about it. But here’s where it touches my life.
I’m in a season of caregiving and I want more than anything for my mother to have a dignified conclusion to her faithful years. I don’t know when she will go to be with Jesus, but dignity matters. And with her diagnosis, already her dignity has been taken. She has also become the subject of gossip and pity.
I hate that.
My mom has wanted dignity. I have wanted that. But it doesn’t seem like that is going to be the case.
When I was praying about this the other day, I felt like the Lord remind me that he didn’t have dignity either at the end of his days. He was disgraced in every way, including being naked in front of all.
Because of the evil in this life, the sickness that sin brought, and the way things unfold, dignity isn’t a given. For any of us.
So in some ways it does give me a measure of comfort. That Jesus understands. That he went through the gossip circles too. That the mockery hurt deep.
I wished it could be different. But then again, I’m sure he felt the same way.