Jesus had defied physics before, commanding the storm to calm a few episodes back. Two events in this section of Jesus’ ministry should make for great paintings, but I could not find any in the books I have for Rome: The Feeding of the Five Thousand, and Jesus Walking on Water. Oh, well, I’ll have to leave those up to your imagination. The other two events that I did find images for are metaphysical events: Jesus naming Peter as the Rock of his church, handing him the keys to the kingdom; and, the Transfiguration.
While Jesus has resorted to telling parables to conceal the meaning of his messages from those who were hostile toward him, he also spoke directly in symbolic terms. In Matthew (16:13-20) he talks with Peter, instructing him to become the leader of his ministry after he is gone. In this he foretells Peter that he will become the rock on which his church will be built. And, he tells him that he will have the keys to kingdom of heaven.
Pietro Perugino’s painting, in the Sistine Chapel, sets Jesus and Peter central in an Italian Renaissance plaza. Other disciples (and patrons) flank them in lines on either side. Rather than the Rock and Keys being figures of speak, Jesus literally hands Peter a set of keys. The architectural features on the horizon are a central baptistry or church, and two triumphal arches, built of stone. These are copies of the Arch of Constantine, the 4th century Roman Empiror who would embrace Christianity. The church building reiterates the location of the “rock”. The triumphal arches draw upon the Roman tradition of kings returning to Rome after conquests.
In the background groups of people appears to be running about. On closer inspection, one scene is Jesus discussing whether to pay taxes to Rome, “Give unto Cesear…”; and the other scene is of Jesus being attacked by mob, attempting to stone him. Formation of the church would not be peaceful or easy. Jesus’ arrest, trial, and death would be necessary for the church to be more than a band of fanatics and a charismatic leader.
If you are a sci-fi fan, the Transfiguration is right out of some Star Trek episode: Levitation, beans of light, sudden appearance of deceased prophets. How did they think this up before computer generated animation, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind? I’m sure that Isaac Asimov liked this section.
Raphael’s painting of the Transfiguration, in the Vatican shows us the moment when Jesus levitates from the top of the mountain with Moses and Elijah . Several of Jesus’ disciples and followers stand below, in the shadows of the peak. Jesus, Moses and Elijah form a triangle above. The crowd below, with the central man pointing to a child, then a central woman looking at a man sitting on the ground, form a second triangle in the crowd. The child, and several other men in the crowd, point up to Jesus, connecting the two triangles. All of these geometric forms point at the light, which surrounds Jesus.
These lighter than air images foretell of Jesus’ crucifixion, with Jesus’ arms out-stretched form a cross along with two others on his right and left, and his resurrection and ascension into heaven, in which the laws of physics cannot explain, any more than his miracles. From this point, Jesus’ messianic ministry will be in full swing, with Jesus’ message turning to prophecies of the near future (Passion Week events) and distance future (End Times stuff).