Finishing a Masterpiece

Michelangelo’s final sculpture remains unfinished. It depicts the moment when Jesus’s body is taken down from the cross and falls into the arms of his mother. At some point, however, Michelangelo had a change of heart about how to depict Christ. An original strong right arm remains visible, but he has cut deeper into the marble and begun carving a weaker more broken figure. For some the unfinished figure of Jesus might symbolise the failure of his mission on earth. Instead of leading a revolution to victory over the Roman occupation of Israel, his life was cut short with a humiliating death on a cross. But nothing could be further from the truth. The doctor and historian Luke begins his record of the early church with these words: ‘In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until he was taken up to heaven.’ Far from Jesus’s mission on earth ending in failure, his death on the cross was just the beginning. Like so many before and since Michelangelo had to leave his masterpiece unfinished. By contrast the risen Jesus has been working on his for some two thousand years and won’t stop until it is finished.

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