23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they divided his clothes among the four of them. They also took his robe, but it was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 24 So they said, “Rather than tearing it apart, let’s throw dice for it.” This fulfilled the Scripture that says, “They divided my garments among themselves and threw dice for my clothing.” So that is what they did.
25 Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” 27 And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home.
28 Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. 30 When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
John 19:23-30 (NLT)
Dear God, as I sat down to look at this image this morning, even before reading the passage from John, I noticed something interesting. I noticed the circles around some of the characters’ heads–indicating they were saints, sanctified, or holy. One was Jesus. Two were obviously women (bottom of cross to the right). One was a man. At first I thought this might be the thief whom Jesus assured would be in paradise, but the face is clean and looking up–not dying. No, this is apparently John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. There is a fifth circle for the person on their knees to the left of the cross. It kind of looks like a woman, but I cannot be sure. Again, after reading the passage, I assume it is one of the other two Mary’s or Jesus’s mother Mary’s sister.
Other things I noticed that the artist, Eric Gill, chose to share with us (side note–I just looked up the artist for a link to share here and found that he apparently sexually abused his daughters. Completely heinous! But does it inform the art a little in that, while he allowed Jesus some modesty, he showed one of the thieves completely naked?): He portrays Jesus’s feet separately and not nailed together–I wonder why. He shows women and men who aren’t sanctified–no circles. I understand the man could represent the Pharisees, but who are the two women in front on John (in Gill’s mind). Who do they represent? It’s a reminder to me that it was likely both men and women who were glad to see Jesus die.
I confess, Father, that I know I would have been one of them had I been there at the time. I would not have believed. I don’t know that I’d have followed all of the way to the cross, but when I heard that the troublemaker, Jesus, had died I would have been happy. I am a fool, but knowing this about myself and how much I still love you gives me mercy for the non-sanctified people in the picture. I am sure you have mercy for them too. How do I know? Because Jesus asked you to. He did that so that every head in that picture would have a circle around it. So I join him in asking that you forgive me for what I am doing. Please allow for my foolishness and sinfulness in your plan.
In Jesus’s name, his wonderful, merciful, powerful, glorious name I pray,