White Crucifixion ,
Painting by Marc Chagall (1887-1985),
Painted in 1938,
Oil on canvas
Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel
After Jesus had decided to leave for Galilee, he met Philip and said, ‘Follow me.’ Philip came from the same town, Bethsaida, as Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, the one about whom the prophets wrote: he is Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.’ ‘From Nazareth?’ said Nathanael ‘Can anything good come from that place?’ ‘Come and see’ replied Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael coming he said of him, ‘There is an Israelite who deserves the name, incapable of deceit.’ ‘How do you know me?’ said Nathanael. ‘Before Philip came to call you,’ said Jesus ‘I saw you under the fig tree.’ Nathanael answered, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.’ Jesus replied, ‘You believe that just because I said: I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.’ And then he added ‘I tell you most solemnly, you will see heaven laid open and, above the Son of Man, the angels of God ascending and descending.’
Reflection on the painting
In our reading today, Jesus says 'Come and see'. He then follows it up with 'Follow me'. Once we have made the effort to come and have seen things with our own eyes, we are then called to action and to follow Christ. This is the core of our faith: come, see, follow! Jesus' call to follow him is much more than an invitation to simply pray with him or to him. It is a call to follow him with our whole lives, meaning we have to lose the lives we think we want to have and find new life within him.
This is the exciting part of our faith, as by trying to follow Jesus, everything changes. A transformation inside us follows from following him…. Our minds, hearts, desires, relationships, work, etc… all change. Our old self melts away in Christ's warming light, to build a new, truer self….
A bit further on in our Gospel reading Nathaniel says that Jesus is the 'King of Israel', referring to Jesus' Jewish roots. Probably no modern artist depicts the Jewish side of Jesus better than Marc Chagall. Chagall, born in 1887 to a poor Jewish family in Russia, developed his own distinctive style, often incorporating the use of strong, vibrant colours depicting dreamlike landscapes with floating figures. In our painting today we see Christ in the centre, nailed on the cross. Chagall accentuates the Jewish identity of Jesus in several ways throughout this painting: the loincloth is replaced with a prayer shawl; his crown of thorns with a head-cloth; and the mourning angels that customarily surround Him, with three biblical patriarchs and a matriarch, clad in traditional Jewish dress… As this was painted in 1938, on the brink of World War II, Chagall links the martyred Jesus with the persecuted Jews at the time: on the right, a synagogue is going up in flames and Jewish figures are seen fleeing; a mother is seen protecting her child....
Share this Gospel Reading
Did you like this Gospel reading and art reflection?
Join in the discussion about this artwork & Gospel reading
Readings related to John 1:43-51
Join our community
In addition to receiving our Daily Gospel Reading and Art Reflection, signing up for a free membership allows you to: