Friday, September 6, 2019

The Good News of Jesus Brought to Life in "The Calling of St. Matthew" by Caravaggio, 1600 A.D.

"The Calling of St. Matthew" by Caravaggio, 1600 A.D. 

Caravaggio showcases how Jesus reaches into every culture and context, time and space, with the call, "Follow Me" to people like us who least expect His attention and love.

In August, we returned to the Gospel of Matthew after enjoying a series on the Sermon on the Mount months before. If you'd like to listen in on recent sermons, including the calling of St. Matthew, here are the links for the sermon audio + liturgy details:

Matthew 9:9-17: Jesus' Restoring Power to Welcome Anyone to His Table (featuring Jesus' call of Matthew)
Matthew 8:23-9:8: Jesus' Divine Power Beyond Our Wildest Imaginations 
Matthew 8:1-22: Jesus' Healing Power for People on the Margins 

In the midst of reading about this time in Jesus' ministry, the classic artwork above has also helped bring to life this miraculous moment in Emmanuel, God with us, come to us in Jesus to reconcile people to Himself. Below are some considerations in wondering with curiosity and awe in how Jesus comes to each of our tables and invites us to follow Him.

The Good News of Jesus Brought to Life in "The Calling of St. Matthew" by Caravaggio, 1600 A.D. 

When Caravaggio decided to create the masterpiece above, instead of dressing the painting’s figures in ancient clothing, he used contemporary clothes of the late 16th century to strongly communicate Jesus' calling of people of any time, particularly people who lived in Caravaggio's day, ethnicity, and culture. 

The men's wealthy clothing combined with the way they crowd like vultures over the money and meet in the shrouded room displays humanity's often great greed and self-protection to hide our biggest faults, yet here we see Jesus bring His Light to the darkness, showcasing that even in our most hidden evil thoughts and actions, we cannot stop Him or drown out His loving call to each of us to come with Him into freedom and hope. 

This most likely resonated deeply with Caravaggio himself because he was as a drunk brawler who picked fights and eventually murdered a man. 

In knowing this about his life, we can also see another potent purpose for Caravaggio's layout. Jesus' fingers in "The Calling of St. Matthew" mirror those of Adam and God in "The Creation of Man" by Michelangelo. Where humanity's hand pulled away from God in our selfishness, self-pity, rebellion, violence, prejudice, and erosion of His good creation, God is reaching further still in Jesus, bridging the great divide we constructed, reaching out to us from the Father by the Spirit and calling each of us by name as He reconciled divinity and humanity in His own body, is reconciling heaven and earth in His incarnated life, death, resurrection, and future return, and will reconcile us fully to Himself so that we can eternally rest in being fully known and fully loved. 

This painting could be updated today with our own modern 21st clothing in any culture among any ethnicity in any restaurant, pub, club, or table in our own neighborhood, town or city. Jesus is here, generously and graciously pointing to each of us, saying, "I love you. I have come to seek and to save you. Come with Me."

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike "Sully" Sullivan 

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