Jesus Modeled for Our Class Today

Jesus modeled for our class today,

naked in his open-palmed innocence.

We had never seen such a model before.

He even brought with him his own light.


We all hoped to capture the exquisite symmetry

of his person–

with our colors, shading, and lines–

each thought to copy him perfectly

(or at least to the letter)

coming at him from so many different

angles, places, distances, filters,

and times.


His form contorted and twisted for us

in beautifully agonized ways,

and we were amazed to see him take on so many postures

having only the image of his outstretched arms

and funneled feet

for a reference.


He would often smile

observing our childish efforts

to grasp and bind him

to a single vision on our canvases

leaving us frustrated

in our vain attempts to concretize his figure–

to make it fit our available shapes


His attitude towards us never changed

though he’d hold a given pose interminably–

as much chance as we needed to perceive him,

he never tired of standing before us…

so that we might see his many-faceted being:

the richness, the depth, the light…

the shadows.


He revealed both softness and strength;

the earthiness of his feet planted firmly on the ground

and the expansiveness of his brow reaching to forever…

his virile arms…gliding legs…majestic torso,

and the hands…

we were so distracted by the holes in his hands

and the red profusion

and the many little faces that appeared in his palms (shuddering).


But his eyes would call us away from the holes

inviting each artist to focus on the transcendent luster in them

beyond the color of red

and the limited portrait of death.


He was undoubtedly the best image we had ever seen

as there was no shame in him,

so boldly presenting his being

exposed…before us,

he challenged us to bare our own.


We dreaded for class to end,

for here was a model

who combined the humble textures of humanity

with the statuesqueness of a God.


As I looked around the room at each easel,

the pictures were as varied as infinity,

but in each there was a light

gilded to his chest.


As we ended, we beseeched our model,

“What do we call the painting?

What is its title?”


“Self portrait,” he replied,

with a divine twinkle in his eyes.





Excerpted from Journeys to the Other Side of Shame © 1990 Errol Strider

Available on the CD “Psalms for the 21st Century”

For more of Errol Strider’s work, see his website


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