Saturday, December 18, 2004

The Brooklyn Crucifixion: The Cross as Universal Suffering

In the novel, My Name is Asher Lev, Asher, the orthodox Jewish artist, paints two pictures using a crucifixion symbol to portray suffering. The pictures are labeled The Brooklyn Crucifixion,and it is those pictures that enstrange the artist from his immediate Jewish community. It did not help that in the novel, Asher Lev also pictured his parents and himself along with the crucifix theme. For Asher Lev the artist, the crucifix was an artistic symbol of suffering, and thus a legitimate symbol to portray the suffering he had seen in his mother's life. The firestorm of controversy surrounding those paintings came from all sides, Jewish, Christian, and critics.

What may not be known is that Chiam Potok, the author of My Name is Asher Lev, was an artist as well as a writer, and he actually painted a picture called The Brooklyn Crucifixion. David duChemin at Fearfully Human has a posted a Jewish passion which includes an image of Potok's The Brooklyn Crucifixion. (Click here for a view of that image.) Here is a brief quote from duChemin's post:
"...The painting is an extraordinary one, not only because of the subject, but because of the context. In his novel My Name is Asher Lev, Potok writes lucidly about the often painful relationship between art and faith. He also seems to imply that for the Jewish Asher Lev, at least, an understanding of the crucifixion is, well, crucial.

The crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth may be different things to different people, and it's representation in art - including the recent Passion film by Mel Gibson - may stir deeply, but it is at it's most elemental a picture of the plight of man..."

In Isaiah 53, the Prophet sets forth a word picture of the suffering of Messiah. For 2,000 years the cross has represented to Christians the suffering of that Messiah. But Yeshua of Nazareth was not the only person to be executed by crucifixion. Neither was he the only Jew to be crucified by the gentile Romans.

Those of us who believe he is Messiah, also believe that on that cross He took upon Himself the suffering of the world. It is for those out of every kindred, tribe, and tongue, and nation that He suffered (Revelation 5). So it is fitting that crucifixion is a symbol of the suffering of all humanity; the concentration camps, the killing fields of Cambodia, the gulags of the former USSR, the kids in Africa orphaned by Aids and carrying the virus themselves, the starvation in the Sudan, the carnage of war, and on and on it goes.... Suffering... A universal human condition....

"...and God Himself shall be among them. And He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain... (Revelation 21)

~ The Billy Goat ~

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