Strolling through the Israel Museum, which is, in my opinion, an absolute national treasure, we came upon the exhibit “Behold the Man,” which depicts Yeshua through the eyes of Israeli artists.
There were many tour groups perched expectantly on their portable museum chairs, listening expectantly and with concentration as the guides explained the pictures.
“Here is a man,” one guide explained, “born to Jewish parents who lived his life as a Jew.”
The pictures were deep, philosophical, and enormously well executed. I was surprised by the sheer number of Jewish artists who were captivated by the person and symbolism of Jesus, his life, his crucifixion, and how they were able to connect on a deep and personal level to him.
One picture, in particular, was by the renowned artist Abel Pann. He painted a picture of the sacrifice of Isaac, the Akeidah, and the corollary to God sacrificing his Son. Missing from the picture was the ram in the thicket, and the angel staying Abraham’s hand. Instead, the picture displayed the anguish of a father, asked to do the unthinkable and the unimaginable. Next to it was a picture of the “Pieta” in which Mary is weeping over her crucified son. This was the anguish of parents who did not yet know of the promise of the resurrection.
There was the well-known picture by Adi Nes of soldiers sitting at a table in the manner the disciples were sitting with Jesus at the Last Supper. The central figure is gazing off into the distance, and the others were talking and smoking after having eaten what could be their last supper before they went off to war, perhaps never to return. There was another picture of six million Jews being sent to a concentration camp and the Nazis taking Jesus off the cross to send him as well.
His suffering, his exclusion from society, and his death were familiar themes. He was a rebel, an unacknowledged prophet, a symbol of exile, and then, in later pictures, a symbol of the resurrection of the State of Israel.
It seems as though these artists, on a deep and personal level, understood something about Jesus and his life and its meaning for all of us in a way that many of us in Messianic Judaism have been trying to grapple with for decades. They understood that he is us. He is one of us. He is not the other; he is Israel. He is ours. He is our son, our brother. He belongs to us.
He has been excluded for too long. And we, who have also been excluded, are welcoming him back into our camp.
I wondered if those visiting the exhibit also felt the connection as the artists did and as we obviously do.
Behold the man. Look upon him whom we have pierced and welcome him home.
This article originally appeared on First Fruits of Zion, March 9, 2017, and reposted with permission.