Last weekend I was in London and visited different art exhibitions, most of them contemporary art, which I love. But one of the things that transfixed me was looking at a copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper at the Royal Academy. Jesus’ hands became my focus.
In the painting, his left hand is stretched out and upwards, as if inviting us take hold. It is a hand of compassion and help, all the thing that we hear about in today’s reading as Jesus announces the heart of his calling and ministry. Jesus is going to make things happen. He is going to make real in people’s lives the promise of God, spoken through the prophets, that there will be liberation and healing, justice and peace. He will proclaim – and live – good news.
But then I looked at Jesus’ right hand. In the painting it is reaching towards bread and wine, that great symbol to us of the cost of seeing salvation come to the world. This hand is tense, taut with energy and, yes, pain. In our reading there appears to be no sign of all that it will cost Jesus to fulfil his ministry, although within a few verses the crowd intend to kill him.
We know that fulfilling the prophecy will cost Jesus everything – even his life on the cross. As we follow Jesus and work for justice, transformation and unity, we too know that it doesn’t come easily. It can be painful, costly and difficult as we hold on to the vision that Jesus has called us to live.
In many world faiths there is a tradition of praying with one hand raised outwards, and the other facing down. Look at your hands today, as you pray with a heart of compassion for others, with a longing for justice and for the courage to act, even when its costly.
Revd. Canon Dr Sandra Millar