Since the 1990s, after therapy and feeling the ransoming love of the Savior, I have had a large print of Minerva Teichert’s “Christ in a Red Robe” hung in my home where I could see it daily. I added a brass plate that read, “I have graven thee on the palm of my hands.” Last week, in Salt Lake City for a few days, I saw the original again, hung at the Minerva Teichert exhibit at the Church History Museum. As when I saw it originally, decades ago at a BYU exhibit, the life-sized painting took my breath away, and I sat there and wept.
This last Easter, I did some contemplative reading that has stayed with me. I’m still trying to figure it out. I re-read Eugene England’s essay, Easter Weekend, where he described being scammed in an elaborate NYC street con. Seeing himself as an observer and the smart one in the group, he realized to his shame and embarrassment, “I was the mark, the only mark.”
Following that haunting line, I read Nadia Bolz-Weber’s, Resurrection is Messy, about the resurrected Jesus returning, showing, bearing his scars, his wounds, his mark. “When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors were locked where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” (John 20)
I thought of one of my favorite scriptures about resurrection: “The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and join shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame.” (Alma 40:23). No marks.
These two essays made different points than where putting the two together led me that day and since. I had some thought of Christ enduring the nails, the “engraving” on the palm of His hands, to rescue me. But now I saw it another way – I was the mark. I was the only, and always, the mark.
The mark was me, and all of us. Not the Jews demanding a mark or the Romans who made the mark. It wasn’t Christ doing the engraving or enduring the engraving, rather the mark – the aim, or even the stain, was always me/us, and only me/us. It would have been there without Jews or Romans, they were just the ruse, the means to an end.
Jesus dealt with, loved, and showed us, we, his marks, without any desire to erase them or come back in perfection like I expected. Unashamed the marks were there, unabashed we made them, and unembarrassed it was messy, as Bolz-Weber said, he held out his marks and said, touch them. Now I, as a disciple, rejoice, and even weep, when I see the marks. By them, I know Him, for I recognize my mark.
Art: Christ in a Red Robe, Minerva Tiechert