Advent offering 4 December

“Christ in the Desert” (1872) is an oil painting by the Russian artist Ivan Kramskoi and depicts the fasting of Jesus in the wilderness (Mt. 4.1-11).


Aesthetically, the painting uses cold colours, shows Jesus in deep contemplation or perhaps experiencing angst. It envisages Jesus as a vulnerable, human figure, which is unusual and even provocative for people who are much more used to seeing the glorified, exalted Jesus in Christian art and through popular culture.

You may recognize the image from the cover of my book The Homeless Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (2014). For me, the image encapsulates the destitution, desperation and alienation from normalized society that is integral to a critical understanding of Jesus’ homelessness. It also undermines to a certain extent the “romanticizing” of Jesus’ homelessness that typically occurs in scholarly interpretations of his itinerancy. Within Matthew, the fasting of Jesus in the wilderness is the second cycle of homelessness in which Jesus is “forcefully displaced” (the first being the flight to Egypt in 2.13-23) — although this time not by political adversaries but by “the Spirit of God” which leads him out into the wilderness where he is tested. It is immediately following this period of testing and withdrawal that Jesus inaugurates¬†his itinerant mission.

– Robert

One thought on “Advent offering 4 December

  1. cedar51 December 4, 2014 / 8:32 pm

    I can’t remember how long he had been fasting, but his arm bones sure is significantly thin-as – he looks like he is at the end of this tether…with not even enough energy to pick up and fight to stay with us all


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