Whether or not you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you’ve probably heard about the collapse of a busy freeway interchange that will have traffic snarled up for months. It was fortunate that the collapse happened in the middle of the night with almost no one around. No one, that is, except for the driver who overturned his fuel truck, precipitating a massive fireball of a blaze that was hot enough to melt away the steel supports of the freeway. The driver sustained treatable injuries; thankfully, there were no fatalities.
You can see pictures of the collapsed interchange here.
Which leads to a question for the art pundits of the world. If this collapse had been deliberate rather than accidental, would it have qualified for being “art”? Would the art world have labeled it an “installation”? Would it have been an artistic “statement” about the decay of urban life or about the dangers of terrorism?
I’m no art critic, but it seems to me that intention counts for a lot in the art world. Jackson Pollack produced art; but if his canvases had resulted from, say, paint accidentally dripping from a studio one flight up, that would not be art.
It’s a bit late in the holiday season to be talking about Passover and Good Friday, but the freeway collapse got me thinking. The death of Jesus was not an accident of history. Nor was it the “fault” of the Romans, or the Jews, or anyone else. Jesus, his own words, was born to die.
…I lay down my life for the sheep [Jesus is here using the metaphor of being a shepherd, that is, someone who cares and protects; ditch the idea of sheep as mindless followers, which is not the meaning in context]. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life— only to take it up again…No-one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father. (John’s Gospel, 10:15, 17, 18)
Which leads to the question, “Why did Jesus die?” Urban legend has it that one person responded, “Because he stopped breathing.” The question, though, is not about physical causes but about larger purposes. If Jesus was born to die, what was the reason?
Mt 20:28 “…the Son of Man [Jesus’ frequent way to refer to himself] did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many? (Matthew’s Gospel 20:28)
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many? (Mark 10:45).
In biblical context, the “ransom” idea includes atonement for our sin, a way to restore our relationship to God our Creator.
Yes, if we had cameras in the first-century, we could have You-Tubed the historical individuals who nailed Jesus to the cross, or all those who played a part in his trial. But ultimately, Jesus tells us, he was born to die so that we could have life. It was no accident. It was deliberate, purposeful, full of what Jewish tradition calls kavannah, intention.
In art terms, that makes it perhaps the greatest “installation” in all of history. And it hasn’t been taken down yet.