Man of Sorrows

Man of Sorrows

Come, sit with me awhile. This painting feels to me like Christ is inviting me into an intimate conversation about what surrounds him. Or maybe Jesus would rather be alone. Is he pondering what must take place in order to fulfill his Father’s will? Perhaps solitude would be more desirable. It’s hard to tell.

This past weekend I was in the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA) and came across this painting. I was immediately captured by it. The painter, Luis de Morales, is a respected Spanish artist who was highly influenced by the Renaissance painters of Italy. He is remembered for his emotional religious paintings, earning him the nickname “El Divino,” which means “The Divine One.”

Since the crown of thorns is upon his head and the blood dripping down his brow, I thought this depicted Jesus after his death, but I see no scars on his body and we know he carried his scars with him, even after the resurrection. I guess the timing isn’t important. It is the emotion of being surrounded by some of mankind’s most brutal instruments of torture that causes me to pause. What was going through Jesus’ mind? Were the tears running down his cheek for us or for him? Is his melancholy expression born from the realization that his Father’s will had to be done—but was harder than one could imagine? The apostle John says that through Jesus, all things were created. Is Jesus mourning the evil that grips his creation and causes so much pain?

Here is what the MIA plaque says: “With legs crossed and chin cupped in hand, Luis de Morales’s Jesus is both regal and melancholic. He sits among the instruments of his torture and death: the column to which he was tied during the Flagellation and the cross that he carried and to which he was nailed. But rather than recreating the narrative of his sufferings, the painting shows Christ removed from those events, meditating on the objects that had inflicted his pain. As such he serves as a model and mirror image for the pious beholder of the painting.”

Man of sorrows close up

Being Human connection: Meditating on the face of Jesus reminds us of the words from Isaiah:

“He was despised and rejected by others;
    a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him of no account.” (Isaiah 53:3)

Featured image: Luis de Morales, “Man of Sorrows,” c. 1560