Ecce Homo, from the Stations of the Cross by Margaret Adams Parker

Margaret Adams Parker

Ecce Homo, from the Stations of the Cross, 2019, Paint and vinyl letters on birchwood panel, Collection of the artist (?), © Margaret Adams Parker

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‘He Himself bore our sins’

Commentary by
Read by Jennifer Sliwka

Margaret Parker’s striking depiction of Christ brought before the people—the Ecce Homo—viscerally combines grandeur with vulnerability and sorrow. The figure of Christ is portrayed in modern dress, but is surmounted with a threadbare royal robe, the tribute by his abusers that both mocks and discloses the truth. The head bears the crown of thorns, and the hands are bound. The clothing shows a night of terror in police custody, and the feet are unshod, defenceless.

Yet the body of Christ is erect, facing us—we who are now the people assembled before Him. Meanwhile behind Him—depicted as He is with a palette of browns that underscore the poverty assumed by the Word—is shimmering gold. Parker renders the face of Christ with solemnity and strength; His eyes meet ours directly, the Judge, judged in our place (Barth §59.2).

The suffering of Christ takes on special urgency and pathos in the letter of 1 Peter. The persecuted Church undergoes a ‘fiery ordeal’ (4:12); it stands under judgement, which begins with the household of God (4:17), and the Adversary prowls even now like a ravening lion.

In the midst of this suffering, Christ stands as the Dying One who lives. There is no attempt to avert our eyes from the injustice and cruelty of this world, visited upon Christ and assumed by Him. The living enactment of the Suffering Servant psalms takes centre stage. Christ is mute, like a lamb before its shearers; He is poured out like wax; He is condemned among criminals; He makes the grave His bed. He bore our sins, the Righteous for the unrighteous.

The oppressed know this Christ; He knows them. In their suffering, He remains their ‘Shepherd and Guardian’ (2:25). In the midst of all that binds them, He frees. In the midst of all that wounds and afflicts them, He heals. In His own earthly pilgrimage, Christ entrusted Himself to the ‘One who judges justly' (v.23). 1 Peter does not leave oppression unchecked, nor take the hope of the poor away. Rather, as Christ Himself knew the God of justice, so those who are called into His way know that God is not mocked.

Yet into a fallen world, suffering will come, and for the persecuted, Christ will come as Exemplar, as Healer, as Righteous Judge. Parker’s Ecce Homo captures this pathos and this majesty.

 

References

Barth, Karl. 1956. Church Dogmatics 4.1, trans. by G.W. Bromiley (Edinburgh: T&T Clark)

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