Recently I saw a portrait of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Gethsemane was the place where Jesus prayed in deep anguish, his sweat like drops of blood falling to the ground. The writer of Hebrews, in all likelihood referring to this moment of reckoning and wrestling, says that Jesus "offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death" (Heb. 5:7). In fact, Hebrews implies that for Jesus, crying and weeping were as habitual as praying—that this was Jesus' oft-struck posture "during his days on earth."

That painting I saw gives not the slightest hint that any of this is so. Behind Jesus, in the backdrop, is an idyllic (and lakeshore!) Jerusalem. Jesus' face, in angled profile, is coolly serene, aloof almost. His eyes have a far away, dreamy look. His body, perched on a rock, is held with prim straightness. His hands rest on his lap like the front and back covers of a stiff-spined book laid open, face down.

The artist has managed somehow to make those hands look both boneless and rigid, soft as dough and brittle as porcelain. Could these hands cut dovetails and mortise joints, wield the saw and plane and hammer, touch lepers' sores and blind men's eyes, braid and lash a whip, spread wide to grasp nails? No, not these hands. These hands are good for petite point or finger-wagging but not much else. Behind Jesus' head, encircling his sleek, smoothly combed hair, is a piercing-white light.

Jesus is perhaps contemplating. Or he is posing, in a stilted way, for a portrait, maybe this one. Or he is daydreaming. But one thing the portrait could never make you believe is that Jesus is weeping, or even capable of such a thing.

But Jesus wept. Maybe that frightens us, or threatens us, or ...

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