Shedding Light on Jesus’ Arrest

Right before Christmas we were robbed. There was quite a ring of people involved. Some of them were caught, some not. We got some of our stuff back, we’re still hoping to get some other stuff back. It was disheartening. Yesterday, my Dad’s truck was broken into. His neighbors’ cars were broken into too. And of course, there’s the hacked credit cards. It seems like at least once a year we have to order a new card because someone got their thieving little paws on the last one. I’ve had it up to here with these bad guys! I’m just going to say it- they suck.

They suck, but not as bad as Judas Iscariot! Talk about a bad guy. Caravaggio captures the worst betrayal the world has ever seen in his painting, The Taking of Christ.

What a riot! An IscaRIOT to be exact.

The painting gives us a front row seat to the moment after Judas’ infamous kiss. Jesus is leaning back, dismayed, but resigned, while his best friend John (far left) realizes what is happening and runs away, yelling, maybe alerting the other disciples? Jesus’ hands are still folded from his desperate prayer, which really conveys his innocence, and Judas’ jerkiness. The soldiers are seizing Jesus already, without waiting for Judas to fully pull away from the kiss. Caravaggio himself is holding the lantern on the far right. I knew he became famous for his unique lighting technique in paintings, I didn’t know there was a name for it beyond “unique lighting technique.” Apparently, the artsy term is “tenebrism.”

In the center, you might notice the soldier’s armor is especially shiny. He didn’t just go through the car wash as it may seem, but Caravaggio wanted viewers to see their reflections and be aware of their own sin and betrayal of Jesus. Pretty deep for a guy who was known for his temper and was handed a death sentence for murdering (at least) one guy.

There are a dozen or so copies of this painting, but the original and most famous hangs in Dublin. It was missing for 200 years before someone realized it was hanging in the Society of Jesus dining hall in Dublin in 1993. 

I especially love the expressions in the painting: John’s panic, Jesus’ grief, even Judas looks a bit conflicted, in my opinion. Truthfully, the entire painting is quite arresting.

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