Thursday, April 10, 2008

 

Crucifixus (The Naked Son of Man)


"Crucifixus: Laid Bare" "Crucifixus: Forsaken (for me)"

By Ramone (pre-birth) - Fall 1997

The assignment at my art class was to draw a large picture and draw a small picture. I always had this problem of wanting to draw a picture that meant something. And a little pride at not just wanting to make "homework", but do something extra. A bit of ego, maybe, wanting to make art, wanting to make something, something more.

I don't know how I arrived at this idea -- at doing it this way and at this time, but it came and I went for it. I decided to paint the crucifixion the way I'd believed it happened, with Christ stripped of all of His dignity, stripped naked and shamed before all.

Intellectually I felt that this was right, but I can't say that I made the picture with any reverence. At the time, I had trouble believing, and it was more of an intellectual argument, more of a labor of "right versus wrong" than a labor of love for my Savior and thanks to Him.

When I brought this "homework" assignment into class and displayed it (as we always did) for critique and comment, it was naturally shocking to some of the students. One dear student was very offended (and I apologize to her now). She had always seen pictures with a loincloth, or movies where He had a loincloth, but I explained that from what I knew of the texts, He was naked.

I confess that I did make the picture to be shocking. To "make a point". And it did turn out to be shocking. I can't say I was completely happy or fulfilled, though, when the shock did happen. But the professor saw it more as an expression of faith (funny, he could see the truth there even though I could not!).

"Crucifixus: The Cry"

Two nights ago as I remembered this picture, Jesus interpreted it for me. I had a gift -- not only of art, but of "seeing" things correctly, seeing what really did happen and how terrible it was. But my heart had not been made new yet. I was still empty inside, and could not paint it in love because I didn't yet know how much He loves me, and that He went through this for me.

At the time, I felt naked. I felt dark. I felt death under me & darkness all around me. I couldn't see Jesus, God the Son. That is why I painted Jesus crucified naked. That is why I had to paint it this way, because that's how I felt about myself.

"Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" was my heart's cry to God -- where are You? But I didn't know it. But somehow I painted it in place of the usual "INRI" plaque Pilate wrote. I had meant to highlight Christ's separation, His doubt, but it was actually my own doubt and cry. At that point in my life when I couldn't believe in Him, I could only see the negative; I could only see that pain and separation from God. I couldn't see that He really was and is "THE KING"! ("INRI" is the Latin initials for "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews").

Now that I think about it, I notice that it was not physically that "dark" when Jesus was crucified -- the Jews would not want the bodies left on a tree after dark, because God had said whoever was hung on a tree was accursed, and leaving them up overnight would pollute the land. But now that I think about it in His presence, He did feel that darkness closing in on Him! He felt my darkness, my pain, my separation of not knowing God. He felt my sin and carried it there, carried it away from me forever.

My then-youth pastor liked the painting so much that he wanted to keep it, so it is with him today. I have only kept the "small" part of the picture, the close-up of Jesus' face. Somehow, I think that when I did that part, there was a certain reverence or appreciation that I did not have when doing the rest of the painting. I can't completely explain this, but it was there, and I'm moved by it now as I recall it.

Now that I see the picture, I see it with love for my Savior. I am not proud of painting it in unbelief, but somehow I can see Him in it -- that He let me paint it about Him (instead of striking me down), and that the empty & lonely part of me then was somehow identifying with how lonely and empty He felt on the cross. I was reaching out to Him in this painting. I needed Him. I wanted Him. I tried to do it through being "correct", but I only felt lonelier than ever, until He came and touched me in fall 1998.

I pray that somehow as you see this you are touched with His love for you. Know that in His shame, He has taken away your shame! I made this picture in my shame, but I believe He is redeeming it now for me from the shameful way I made it, and showing me that He has taken my shame away. He is using it to show me His love for me, even when I was in sin. I pray that you know His love for you, even in your sin, even before you ever were born. In Jesus' name, amen.

Read Isaiah 53. Thank You, Lord.

Previous: Pre-Birth Self-Portrait #2
Next: The Underground Man

P.S. I highly recommend T.D. Jakes' book which mentions this, Naked and Not Ashamed. We all are afraid to show ourselves, to see ourselves and let othes see us "naked" -- as we are. In the same way we are afraid of showing Christ as He really was, so we "cover Him up" to present what we think is acceptable, just like we cover ourselves up because we're afraid that what we are is too horrible to be seen.

Comments:
Ramone, I sense you feel nervous about sharing these paintings that you did eleven years ago because you do not want to offend anyone unnecessarily by their shocking honesty...

What makes them "beautiful" and "revealing" is that in your brokenness before you knew His love for you you were still able to paint what you honestly believed was the truth about Jesus' crucifixion... Maybe not from the right motives, but God saw beyond your outward need for approval and attention, because He was looking at your heart! You had legitimate needs that had not been met...needs that only He could fulfill!

I sensed that you were disrobing and becoming "naked" emotionally before Him as your heart cried out to know Him! In identifying with the truth of His nakedness you were not willing to cover it up in order to make it look acceptable, because you had reached a point of pain in your own life where truth was becoming more important to you than hiding behind facades that distorted the truth...

He is Truth! And He has taken your shame and your fear and your people-pleasing upon Himself so that you may now reflect to others the true freedom you enjoy by knowing Him intimately.

Your art and the words He gives you to describe the pictures you receive from Him are such a blessing to me as I know they must be to many many others who read your posts!

Keep on painting and sharing His heart with the world, Ramone!
 
One more important thing I forgot to mention last night when I wrote my comments...

To me it seems that you have artistically planted the cross right on top of the earth because Christ came to die for the sins of the world. But the world that you have depicted looks to me like a "skull"...which of course is the name of the place where Jesus was crucified..."The Place of the Skull...

Whatsmore, you have the base of the cross resting on the hollow eye sockets of the skull... In a way this skull represents how the cross pierced the enemy's head (skull). It was a lethal blow that stripped Satan and his cohorts of their power...

Through Jesus' shame and humiliation He gave us the keys to our identity in Him...forever!

Also... the close up of the eyes of Jesus seem to be asking the question of His Father, "Where are You?" In your brokenness you were also crying out the same question, "Father, where are You?"

The Father chose not to answer Jesus' question at that time because He suffered that separation from God in your/our place. The Father didn't answer Jesus question because He wanted to answer your/our question once and for all. "I am right here my, child! There is nothing that separates Me from You! The Way has been made into the very center of My heart for you...for the world...forever!"
 
I didn't notice that skull before. I like that it's part of the picture and I like how it's being PIERCED.
 
Hazel, thank you for that... I am moved and will have to read it again (and again) and soak in His presence. Thank You, God, for giving her Your sight and seeing through to what I could not see about myself. Thank You.

Also, thank you for pointing that out about the skull. I had painted that simply because it was the meaning of "Golgotha" and probably because it was shocking. I had no idea then how truly He had "defeated death" by what His humiliation and death on the cross! How prophetic of God to bring that truth out of the painting I had done without even knowing it!

****

I asked a couple of friends (including Hazel) for their honest and raw opinion and reaction about this painting, because I really don't want to offend anyone.

One dear friend and I had the following exchange:

*****

My friend wrote:

Ramone, about the naked Jesus. I don't like seeing the penis-- that's as blunt as I can be. I read Hazel's comments and I realize that she knew you way before I did... so I'm not on the same page there. I just don't like it. I focus on the penis and I get uncomfortable... How much more blunt and real can I be right now.

I'm embarrassed... Anyway, you asked for REAL, I gave you real and honest. :)

*****

I wrote back:

I can't say I know exactly how you feel, but then I can't say I don't know how you feel either, because I too feel disgusted when I see it -- the penis. I don't like seeing it. I don't like seeing what they did to my Savior -- what I did to my Savior!

I'm also embarassed by it, but I don't know what to do to it. I think I would like to share some of these thoughts you and I are sharing on the comments part. Would that be all right with you? It is a traumatizing painting -- it was a traumatizing event, and I think it's good for that part of it to be shared, you know?

Somehow I think maybe He's bringing this all back to me and maybe letting me put it out there so that some can go through healing and reconciliation with the trauma... maybe in a way TD Jakes was right (in his book, Naked and Not Ashamed) about the loincloth covering up to make things more decent, even something as horrible as the crucifixion. Maybe the church as a whole hasn't come to terms with part of the traumatic shame of the crucifixion because we have always sterilized it and made it "beautiful"?? I don't know.

Thank you for being honest. Thank you! I'm praying that it doesn't traumatize you any further! I pray that God continues healing you (and me!) and bringing us to rest and fullness in His love!

*****

My friend replied:

Interesting Ramone that you're embarrassed by that image as well.. I assumed I was embarrassed because of my own reasons but maybe it's more than that? I don't even want to see it honestly... I just want to turn my head away... It's VERY DIFFICULT to deal with, very difficult to even read what you wrote in response... It's like I want to forget this whole thing all together because it's so uncomfortable. It's so uncomfortable that I don't even want to look deeper to see why I'm so uncomfortable.

*****

Then I replied:

I thought about what you wrote, and I thought I had a reply that explained things... but what I've written here (and on the post itself) explains that well enough. What I'm coming to realize now (more and more with weeping in the Spirit) is how awful, horrible, and terrible the crucifixion of the Beloved Son of God really was.

I realized that I don't think I could paint this picture now that I believe, love Him, and know His love for me. He would have to order me to do it, I think! Well, at least ask me to do it. And then I would probably protest. "No, Lord, I don't want to see You this way!" "No Lord, not that!" "Noooo..."

I'm weeping now. How much more terrible was it when He really did die this way for us? How much more would we scream, "No, Lord, no...!" "Not this... ANYTHING but this, Lord! What are they doing to You?! What am I doing to You?! No, Lord!"

It's very, very, VERY hard to bear.

I think maybe that just as the ones who crucified Him did it because they didn't believe, maybe I, too, was able to paint Him being crucified because I didn't wholly believe.

But I remember with a puzzling wonder now how I did paint His portrait (the close-up) with tenderness, affection and love. And His Spirit keeps confirming that to me! Part of me was able to paint this way back then because deep down something in me did believe. Most of me felt like I didn't believe, but deep down, I did. My heart was longing for Him -- eternity was there in me crying out for Him whom deep-down I knew was real. Deep, deep down I knew what He did for me, and when I had to do the close-up of His face, my love came forth because deep, deep down inside, I loved Him.

In awe, thanks and love,
Ramone

*****

Hazel then commented:

Yes, I was both shocked and uncomfortable and the nakedness of Christ, because I don’t want to be reminded of the horror of what he went through for me! I want to sanitize the event and make it more “acceptable”, and yet I know in my heart that He was stark naked before the whole world! The physical awfulness of what was done to Him and the effects that it had on his body are more than I can bear to dwell on… but the spiritual results of what He suffered for you and me spell total freedom in Him! Thank you, Jesus!!!

In His love,
Hazel

*****

My friend wrote:

Last night, right before I fell asleep, I thought to myself, "Why don't I like that painting."
It's because IT'S MY GOD, the KING of kings, the LORD above all, the GREATEST, BIGGEST, LOVELIEST, Most wonderful Being.... the HIGHEST ONE... and He's being humiliated. and that breaks my heart.

I thought if I had seen another random naked man whether in statue or picture-- it wouldn't bother me... It's just another naked man.

Yeah -- it's our LOVE for who's on the cross that makes this so difficult to bear.

*****

Later, my friend added:

Know how we've been talking about the shame of Jesus on the cross.. Well I've been thinking about it a little more. I was then playing piano this evening and was playing this song, This is Love, and I SANG IT IN A TOTALLY DIFFERENT WAY! I really understood that Jesus TOOK MY SHAME so I didn't have to have it upon me... NOW I understand what that means. NOW I understand the shame on the cross... WOW.

I sang that song like I was a new person... like I was singing a new song... like I understood the gospel all over again.

Just needed to share.

*****

I answered:

Thank you for sharing about the song, by the way. I think somehow seeing this is changing me -- changing us -- and I don't know where it'll go from here, but I'm thankful to weep because of what He went through -- His tears are cleansing tears (Zechariah 12:10) ... we're sharing in Father's pain.

Blessings in His love,
in the love of Father's broken heart,
Ramone
 
Thank you Jesus for dying for me on the cross. I love you.... Ralph ♥
 

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