Meeting Jesus at the NGV

When I first saw this bowl I instantly thought of the bowl I used to see on my Nana's table. It's the same bowl, with the same ridges on the underside.

Except it can't be same bowl; if Nana's has survived it's in an op shop somewhere, this bowl is in the National Gallery of Victoria.

A glass bowl from 25 to 75 AD, Eastern Mediterranean

I felt the same awe today as the day I first saw it. It's part of the reason I came back. This bowl is from the time of Jesus, dated 25 to 75 AD, and from the eastern Mediterranean.

And it's just like Nana's. It could be Nana's.

Suddenly I saw Incarnation in a new way— in fact it was less about seeing and understanding and more about suddenly feeling and knowing. He was a man like me. Just like me.

I'm not talking some kind of naif piety here. I see deliberate, precision editing all over the gospel narratives. The authors adjust the petty details to ensure the stories will tell their understanding of the Jesus experience and its significance. It's clear they invented a few things to get the message across!

The stories have their own power; we don't need a course in theology to see the message. But scholarly insights open an enormous trove of extra insight for us.

Yet beyond the scholarship—past the redaction and the rhetoric—what I felt here was a connection to the utter humanity of this man we tell stories about. We are not telling stories about some idealised figure, some icon of humanity. These are stories like the stories I might tell about  Hurstie in college. This is us!

We can be part of the story of the Kingdom of Heaven. He double dipped into this same glass bowl of hommus with us. He is one of us. This is a story about a real person.

Andrew Prior


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