Monday, October 8, 2007
Jesus living with people.
c. Healer (Oil on board. Painting at Ecumenical Centre, Whitefield, Bangalore, 1980)
Variously symbolised, it is self-giving compassion that dominates in this picture. A Sadhu-like Jesus seems to burn with intense feelings of pity and perhaps indignation too: the poor must hear the good news that God’s new world is breaking in; the blind need to be given sight; lepers needs to be made clean and accepted; prisoners have to be set free. These were the words of his first sermon (Luke 4:14, taken from the prophetic outbursts of Isaiah).
Flames of fire again almost engulf the scene, even a burning bush. The presence of Jesus provoked crisis as well as the calming of fevered spirits. His flowing hair suggests a person agitatedly on the move, compelled by a sense of urgency - precisely the picture painted in parts of the Gospels. His eyes and face express a steely determination to travel the road set before him.
A different sort of prefiguring was also found in the ‘great compassion’ of the Buddha, the ‘Enlightened One’ - from more or less the time of the Hebrew prophet Isaiah. The Buddha was also a healer, signs perhaps of the potent equanimity that resulted from the challenging wisdom of his new Way. The hands of Jesus here are in the form of the ‘wheel of the right way’, indicating the imparting of new insight. This is the same mudra as found in images of the Buddha.
Note too the watchful eye in two places (another Buddhist symbol), here flowing with tears of compassion: ‘Jesus saw the large crowd (that had come into the desert wilderness to see him, hear him and receive healing), had compassion on them and began to teach them many things (about the new life of God’s kingdom)’ (Mark 6:34). The tears encompass two of those seeking healing from the touch of Jesus.
Then there are the feet, with their memorial-stone covering. Perhaps they are like the feet of the Buddha, symbols reminding his followers of the presence of One who walked our earthly path and felt its pain? Or are they the feet of a dead person, already engulfed in the flames of cremation? It was foretold that the Great Healer to come was even to raise the dead from their sleep.