A craggy-faced Christ. Not exactly the image of Christ with which I grew up. The Christ of my Sunday School pictures and church wall hangings had quite a different face, a gentle face, a kindly face. Granted that face was very much a handsome Caucasian face, and not a first-century Jewish face, but there was a certain sweetness, a certain tenderness about that Christ.
This craggy-faced Christ is so very different. This Christ stepped right out of Isaiah 53:3. He is truly a Christ “despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (KJV). He knows about life. About its hardships. About its pain.
This Christ is part of a beautiful wood-carving of the Last Supper that our daughter gave to us, a gift from her trip to Croatia a few years ago.
In this carving, this very craggy-faced Christ sits in the midst of his disciples. And as this Christ holds out his two burly arms, his hands are clenched around two chunks of bread. “My body,” he says, knowing full well that his body was soon to be broken for them.
And for us. There’s certainly a place for a smiling, gentle Christ on the picture-walls of our minds. I like to imagine such a Christ laughing and playfully joining with us in all the fun adventures of our lives. Like to imagine him dancing through our joyful days. Like to imagine him sipping a cup of tea with me from time to time.
But there are times, many times, when I need and when I can relate more easily to this craggy-faced Christ from the Croatian wood-carving. This is a Christ who speaks the language of loneliness. A Christ who knows my deepest sorrows. Who knows the sorrows of our broken world. Who knows the pain and fear of refugees. A Christ who weeps for the chaos and loss when guns tear lives apart in our country and in countries around the world. Who aches with children and women and men whose lives are curtailed by illness, by hunger, by poverty, by war, by discrimination.
This craggy-faced Christ will never offer trite platitudes to ease the pain that so often intrudes into our lives and into our world. Instead, this Christ offers us the bread of his body broken for us. Broken on what seemed at the time a God-forsaken cross. Broken in his descent to hell before God raised him to new life from the darkness of the tomb.
This bread is a precious gift. It’s bread that offers us a measure of peace. Bread that gives us hope. Bread that strengthens us. Bread that keeps us ever in God’s grace.