Word Became Flesh (2007)
by David Rodriguez
copyright 2007

Lent 4, John 3:14-21

Historical Description:

One aspect of contemporary art that can prove incredibly beneficial for the church is its willingness to “press the boundaries” a bit through its exploration of theological principles in concrete form.  David Rodriguez’s “Word Became Flesh” is just one of those excellent representations of reality.  In this painting, Rodriguez engages in performance art, taking pages from Scripture, applying them to an 8 foot piece of plywood to form the skin of Christ, and then painting to create a figure of flagellation.  Jesus literally is the Word in flesh who embodies the Lenten message that Jesus came into the flesh for one reason – to suffer and die in the flesh on our behalf.

Devotional Reflection:

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Many Christians are familiar with the Ten Commandments and the many other writings that talk about how we are to deal with ourselves, our neighbor and even God.  Many Christians may be tempted to consider these commandments from God as things that we are to perform and, by performing well, achieve praise from God because of our faithful obedience.  These Christians often pride themselves as they struggle to keep God’s Word.  There are other Christians who will attempt to change God’s commandments.  If what God has said is too difficult to keep, they will slightly “re-interpret” the command so it is more in line with the popular culture and more easily kept.  When it comes to keeping God’s laws both of the above groups attempt the same thing – they judge how right they are in God’s eyes by the works they do, rather than by the works God does.

God is clear why He gave the law.  He gave the law so that “Through the law we become conscious of sin” (Romans 3:20).  The law was given, in short, so that we would realize we can’t keep the law and desperately need someone who can – Jesus.  In David Rodriguez’ “Word Became Flesh” pages from a Bible are molded into the figure of Jesus.  These are the words that command how we are to act toward ourselves, our neighbors and God and of the punishment for not doing so.

In this painting we can also see the judgments for our sins being crossed out in lines of blood.  The demands of the law and punishment for breaking the law are both being covered in blood, Jesus’ blood.  All of this is being done for one simple reason – Jesus Christ is offering Himself as the receiver of that punishment in our place.

God could have come into this world to condemn the world, but He didn’t.  He came to free this world from a law that we could never keep.  We are free, not because of anything we have done or attempted to do and certainly not because we’ve changed the law to make it easier.  We are released only because of what God has decided to do for us through the Word that became flesh, Jesus Christ.  Through the sacrifice of Jesus, God speaks a new Word to you.  He speaks forgiveness to you.  He speaks mercy to you.  He tells you that you are free, that He loves you, that He really does forgive what you have done in your life.  He forgives and releases you even if you have trouble releasing and forgiving yourself.

David Rodriguez’s artwork fully captures that God did not come into this world to condemn the world.  The Word came into this world to condemn Himself and, by doing so, sets us free.

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