“I see a far more intimate and immediate connection between the true life of Christ and the true life of the artist,” wrote the magnificent sinner and penitent ,Oscar Wilde , in 1897. Vincent van Gogh, writing a few years earlier in 1888, trumped Wilde, stating that Jesus was the greatest artist that ever lived. In his letter to his brother , Theo, on June 26, 1888, Vincent wrote that Jesus stood alone, over “all philosophers and magicians”.
It is an interesting idea to contemplate: Jesus as an artist. Indeed, as an artist, He commanded His very body as the artwork.
In examining Holy Week, Jesus was not only a painter, he was a poet, a dramatist, and a magician.
During what is now known as “Holy Week “, Jesus made an outlandish remark to the public. “Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days.” (Mathew 26:61) In fact, it was those very words that brought about Jesus’ death. The Pharisees, before the Sanhedrin , were outraged with his claim. (Mark 14:57) For the Temple of Jerusalem had taken 40 years to build. How could Jesus on his own destroy and resurrect the temple in a weekend?
Of course, Jesus was not talking about a “temple built by human hands”. (Acts 17: 24) He was talking about his own body.
So he allowed his corpus to be destroyed through a gruesome act. He allowed his temple to hang from a tree. He brushed blood as paint onto the very canvas which was his skin. When it was finished, there was no curtain call, in fact the curtain was torn apart in the aftermath (Luke 23:45). The earth shook and the skies broke.
Then, Jesus managed the most famous of disappearing and reappearing acts. As the great dramatist that He was, using the world as a stage, he kept his audience waiting for a good 36 hours before he returned in the flesh.
And just as he had told the pharisees, he raised the temple in three days. He returned in glory in a cloth of white with his wounds intact.
Painter. Performer. Magician.
Oscar Wilde writes that all important art contains Jesus. “Wherever there is a romantic movement in art there somehow, and under some form, is Christ, or the soul of Christ.” said Wilde. ” He is in Romeo and Juliet, in the Winter’s Tale, in Provençal poetry, in the Ancient Mariner, in La Belle Dame Sans Merci, and in Chatterton’s Ballad of Charity.”
And as Vincent van Gogh had written, Jesus was “ an artist greater than all other artists, scorning marble and clay and paint, working in the living flesh.” By being an artist of he highest import, Van Gogh wrote, “he made…living men, immortals.”
And that is probably the greatest work of art ever…the work of His love.