Jesus in the Harvard Art Museums

After six years of expansion and renovations, the Harvard Art Museums—all three now united under one roof—reopened last weekend. I visited this Saturday in what was one of the most enjoyable mornings I’ve spent since moving to Boston. Their collection is spectacular. Since I can’t possibly recap all the standouts, I’ll focus on just a few that feature Jesus. These are not necessarily the most famous pieces from the collection but are some of the ones that engaged me the most—in terms of either iconographic content or devotional inspiration.

Unless otherwise indicated, all photos are by the Harvard Art Museums; click on the image to be led to its webpage.

Flight to Egypt, with the Slaughtered Innocents

William Holman Hunt (British, 1827-1910), The Triumph of the Innocents, 1870-1903. Oil on canvas, 75.3 x 126 cm. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The Triumph of the Innocents is a really unique visual retelling of the Flight to Egypt, showing the spirits of the “Holy Innocents”—the Bethlehemite babes who were slaughtered by Herod in a desperate attempt to protect his rule—leading the way. There’s so much here—the visionary bubbles filled with scenes of the messianic kingdom, the prefiguring gestures of the children, the theme of resurrection—that I think I’ll shelve the exposition of this piece for another post, perhaps for the Holy Innocents’ feast day, which is coming up next month.

Man of Sorrows

Aelbert Bouts (Netherlandish, ca. 1451/54-1549), The Man of Sorrows and The Mater Dolorosa, mid-1490s. Oil on oak panel, 37.9 x 26.5 cm. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

This pair of images was painted in the Netherlands by Aelbert Bouts, from the famous Bouts line of painters. The Man of Sorrows and the Mother of Sorrows (Latin: Mater Dolorosa) were frequently paired together, so as to urge devotees to reflect on both the suffering of Christ and that of his mother. I found it really easy to enter into these two paintings; they drew me to worship, there in that gallery walkway.  Continue reading

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Tee Time: Life is wasted without Jesus

WastedApparently a high school student in Canada got suspended from school in 2012 for wearing a T-shirt with this slogan—and not because of the veiled drug reference, but because the shirt was said to offend those who don’t share its wearer’s beliefs.

(T-shirt found at

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Vintage Jesus, Part 10: Why Did Jesus Come to Earth?

This twelve-part series outlines the “Vintage Jesus” sermons of Mark Driscoll. See part 1 here.

3:29: To do the will of God, who sent him to earth as a missionary (John 6:38, 8:42)

4:20: To do everything anticipated in the Old Testament (Matthew 5:17-18)

5:37: There were three offices in the Old Testament, all of which Jesus filled: prophet (speaks), priest (serves), and king (rules). He demonstrated them in verifiable ways while on earth, and he continues to demonstrate them still from his seat in heaven.

6:21: Jesus as prophet: a bold, confrontational truth-teller

7:46: Unlike other prophets, Jesus says, “I tell you this” (not “God told me this”) or “I say to you”—I am the source and center and sum of truth. He appeals to his own authority as God, and people recognized that.

8:59: Jesus doesn’t just speak the word of God; he is the Word of God. (John 1)

10:38: Jesus was a preacher who pointed out sin and error and folly with the message “Repent.” He came to put his finger on the dark parts of our lives and release us from them.  Continue reading

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Tee Time: Seek His Face (No Shave November)

Seek Christ's faceFound at

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Vintage Jesus, Part 9: How Did People Know Jesus Was Coming?

This twelve-part series outlines the “Vintage Jesus” sermons of Mark Driscoll. See part 1 here.

0:55-4:50 – Interview with Rabbi Mark Glickman: A Jewish Perspective on Who the Messiah Is

“The Messiah will usher in an era of universal peace and justice and righteousness and goodness, and a mere glance at the newspapers today shows that we haven’t reached that yet. Our world is far from the good, righteous, perfect place that our tradition has dreamt it can be. And therefore we very definitely live in a pre-Messianic world—a world in which the Messiah has not yet come.

. . .

“Reform Judaism, early on, rejected the notion of a person as the Messiah. We’re not looking for an individual but rather we see ourselves as God’s partner in working tirelessly in order to bring on the Messianic era, in order to make the world the good, perfect, just, righteous place we know it can become. So we’re not looking for the Messiah to be a person; we’re looking for the fulfillment, more generally, of the Messianic dream of our tradition, which promises peace and wholeness and completeness—the world as it might be.”  Continue reading

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Tee Time: Air Jesus

T-shirt_Air JesusThe ultimate high.

Found at

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“Jesus Is Yours” by Ordinary Time

Track 1 on the album Joy Brand New. Words and music by Ben Keyes.

Ordinary Time is an independent folk acoustic trio rooted in the Christian tradition. For more information, visit their website,

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