LOOK: Antonello da Messina (Italian, ca. 1430–1479), Christ Crucified, 1475. Oil on wood, 41.9 × 25.4 cm. National Gallery, London.
I’m struck by the strong verticality of this painting, which, by elevating Jesus so far above the ground, gives it a certain solitariness. Antonello composed the picture with a low viewpoint so that we, like John the apostle on the right, also have to look up to view the crucified Christ.
As they looked upon the staff
That Moses wrapped the snake around
So my eyes behold the cross
That my Lord is placed upon
Bring me healing, bring me sight
Bring me feeling, bring me light
Bring anointing to my head
Make alive what once was dead
This song is inspired by Jesus’s words in John 3:14–15: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” Jesus is, of course, referring not only forward to his crucifixion but also back to the episode in Numbers 21:4–9, in which the people of Israel were healed from fatal snake bites by casting their gaze on a bronze serpent raised up on a pole.
Josh Compton is a singer-songwriter from Canton, Ohio, whose collaborative music projects have been recorded under the names The Brothers of Abriem Harp (I reviewed their Last Days album here) and A Ship at Sea [previously]. The latter’s Awake, Awake is one of my favorite albums.
“Staff” by A Ship at Sea is featured on the Art & Theology Lent Playlist on Spotify.