Behold the Lamb of God
In the light of last week and this week's lectionary readings both referring to John the Baptist, I would like to offer you this painting by Flemish artist Dieric Bouts (circa 1410-1475) which I found in Munich's Alte Pinakothotek, whilst wandering around for 6 hours on a Sunday (instead of going to church... shock! horror!)
It is entitled "Behold the Lamb of God!" and was commissioned by someone considering ordination, with John pointing the potential ordinand across the river, to follow, not himself, but the "Lamb of God."
The audio-commentary described it as the most important recent acquisition by the gallery. I cannot comment on that as I am artistically illiterate, but I do believe that the same commentary was wrong when it suggested that the way that Jesus is painted suggests that he is in some kind of mystical, otherworldly state... Yes he certainly seems to be in an attitude of prayer, but actually if you look at the picture you will see that while John is standing on verdant ground, with flowers growing at his feet on the one side of the river, Jesus is walking on barren ground on the other… This is clearly an allusion to the temptations in the wilderness which, scripture tells us happened immediately after Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan by John… but I believe that it is more than that… It is the challenge to follow Jesus walking in the wilderness, rather than staying with John on the safe and comfortable side of the river… Because radical as John’s lifestyle was, this artist realises that following Jesus, through the wilderness, on the way of the cross, is so much more radical still… It's not about strange clothes or revolting diets, it is about a willingness to go where the Spirit leads...