Counting Bones

Usually on Friday, I like to feature a picture that is about the Passion of Christ, since Friday is the traditional day of the Passion. So, continuing on with the series of macabre religious art, I would like to feature this work about the Scourging of Christ, or, as it is commonly called in religious art, the Flagellation.

This is… a really disturbing picture, first of all. I found it while going through public domain images of the Scourging of Christ that I could possibly use for my upcoming book, which pairs the Sorrowful Mysteries to religious artwork (which is set to be released in the US sometime next year, but will look similar to the book, The Joyful Mysteries in the way it’s laid out).

Going through pictures of Jesus being tortured, mind you, is not easy in the first place because many of these pictures depict the brutality that Jesus went through in a startling way that is supposed to make you feel uncomfortable. For instance, while I was looking at pictures with my three-year-old peering over my shoulder, I found it difficult to explain to her what this picture of the Scourging was about when she asked me.

But this particular picture was just so graphic that it made me rather sick to realize the kind of torture that Jesus went through (and quite glad that my daughter wasn’t peering over my shoulder when I came across this image!)

The Flagellation, by Nicolás Enríquez, c. 1729. Museo Nacional de Arte, Mexico City, Mexico. Via IllustratedPrayer.com
The Flagellation, by Nicolás Enríquez, c. 1729. Museo Nacional de Arte, Mexico City, Mexico.

In the picture, angry men armed with whips, chains, thorny sticks, and knives, flay off Jesus’ skin. Jesus, lying on the ground, asks in Latin, “Quae utilitas in sanguina mea?” Or, in English, “What use is there in my blood?” Thus, the artist asks us to really think about what the Blood of Christ really means and makes us realize that the Body and Blood of Christ was gotten for us at quite a high price and we should never, ever, ever take it lightly.

But what horrified me probably the most was that you could see every bone in His back, as his back was utterly ripped apart. Automatically when I saw this picture, the scripture, “I can count all my bones” popped into my head.

Then, wondering where that line of scripture came from, I looked it up and found that it was part of a psalm, known simply as Psalm 23. In fact, Jesus leads the people into the psalm when He said, “EloiEloilama sabachthani?” which is translated as, “My God, My God, why have You abandoned me?” This psalm was written by King David, who reigned the Kingdom of Israel nearly 1000 years before Jesus was even born. The psalm first begins in a lamentation that goes like this:

…and, honestly, it’s eerie how much it seems to describe the Passion. From the description of the bones to the parched throat to the pierced hands and feet, so many details are of the Passion are there that it’s hard not to contemplate Jesus as using these words to describe Himself as He dies on the cross.

Yet, while the psalm starts off as a lamentation, it ends in a triumphant note:

And we are the generation that was unborn that proclaim of the greatness and saving power of God. After all, Christ has triumphed over death itself!

Dear Jesus,

Thank You for your sacrifice, which was done out of love. For the sake of Your sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Amen.

It’s not the Sorrowful Mysteries, which is coming out next year, but you can check out the new book, Illustrated Rosary: The Joyful Mysteries, which is set to be released this year in mid-November!

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of four, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer.

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