Today's Gospel in Art - There has never been anybody who has spoken like him

  • Patrick van der Vorst

Beethoven's Trumpet (With Ear), Installation by John Baldessari 2007 © Beyer Projects, New York

Beethoven's Trumpet (With Ear), Installation by John Baldessari 2007 © Beyer Projects, New York

Gospel of 28th March 2020 - John 7:40-52

Several people who had been listening to Jesus said, 'Surely he must be the prophet', and some said, 'He is the Christ', but others said, 'Would the Christ be from Galilee? Does not scripture say that the Christ must be descended from David and come from the town of Bethlehem?'

So the people could not agree about him. Some would have liked to arrest him, but no one actually laid hands on him.

The police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees who said to them, 'Why haven't you brought him?' The police replied, 'There has never been anybody who has spoken like him.'

'So' the Pharisees answered 'you have been led astray as well? Have any of the authorities believed in him? Any of the Pharisees? This rabble knows nothing about the Law - they are damned.'

One of them, Nicodemus - the same man who had come to Jesus earlier - said to them, 'But surely the Law does not allow us to pass judgement on a man without giving him a hearing and discovering what he is about?' To this they answered, 'Are you a Galilean too? Go into the matter, and see for yourself: prophets do not come out of Galilee.'

Reflection on the Sound Installation

In today's Gospel reading we see how puzzled people were as to who Jesus was: a prophet or the Messiah? This proves that He made a big impression on them. Everyone had an opinion, but they could not go so far as to accept Him fully as the Messiah. The phrase that stands out for me is 'Never has anyone spoken like this!' This demonstrates that Jesus' spoken words were powerful and touched everyone, whether they believed (in) Him or not. The problem when we read Scripture now is that we have somehow become overfamiliar with the texts. When we start reading the Gospels we quickly jump to concluding 'Ah yes, I know what it is about'. But, every time we start reading whatever Scripture passage we take, we have to approach it with freshness and a sense of wonder at the newness of God. We too should have the same reaction each time we read, that 'Never has anyone spoken like this!'

John Baldessari's sculpture here, called 'Beethoven's Trumpet with Ear', is a large-scale work about the paradox of communication: a sculptural 'sound' piece about a 'deaf' composer. An equal paradox was in the heads of some of Jesus' followers: how can He be 'human' and 'divine' at the same time? That is what they are trying to figure out in today's reading. Our artwork is silent until the viewer speaks into the trumpet at which point a section from Beethoven's six last quartets will be heard. Our souls are silent too until we start speaking to Christ, upon which the full sound of Salvation can be heard!

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Tags: Christian Art Today, Patrick van der Vorst, John Baldessari

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