I Had to Make Sure He was Dead
Originally posted April 16, 2017 | Rhana Gittens
I visited Houston a couple of months ago and my good friends, Andrea and Khambrel, took me to the Houston Museum of Fine Art to see the Ron Mueck exhibition. Ron Mueck, an Australian sculptor, is known for his hyperrealistic pieces of the human body.
There was one sculpture that grabbed my attention more than all the others. In the 13-piece
exhibit, there was only one Black body. He was one of the final pieces in the assembly and when I met him, I stared. The statue stands at a little over 2 feet tall, which is miniscule compared to the 16-foot long baby girl sculpture at the end of the exhibit. Here was this small Black boy with an apparent stab wound to his side. He was wearing a white tee and jeans sagging below his hips. His small stature and unassuming figure took away any of the stereotypes some would make about a Black male body. The name Mueck gave him, was simply, “Youth.” The statue puzzled me because it was so different from all the rest. I brought the boy into my own context. He reminded me of the many Black boys who had suffered violence at the hands of each other and police officers. I thought of social justice and lack thereof. I imagined bondage to oppression and wondered if Mueck was attempting to make an expression of liberation.
Then Andrea said, look at the wound.
There was a stab wound in his side, but he clearly wasn’t dead. His body wasn’t bruised either. He lifted his shirt and looked down at the wound. His eyes didn’t reveal that he was suffering. Instead, he looked like he was in shock. To me he said, “how did that get there?” I imagined the situation that may have brought it on. His puzzled look made me consider that the person who stabbed him may have been a friend.
And then Andrea said, where else have you seen this wound?
His body was wounded, bruised and bloody from the flogging. Metal pierced His wrists and His feet. He had thorns piercing His skull. They stretched His arms on the cross. And there, right below His right rib cage was a stab wound. They stabbed Him to make sure He was dead. They had to make sure He was dead.
But I guess their check failed, 'cause three days later, Mary Magdalene came to His tomb. She didn’t see His body and she started to cry. He came to her and said, “Dear woman, why are you crying?”
Why are you crying?
You see I came to you small and unassuming. I was humbled by my attire. And I gave you the best of my youth. I felt your burdens, your struggles, and your ailments. I saw the injustices against my children. I saw that you were being oppressed by the powers on earth and I decided to set you free. So, I let my friends betray me and I took the wounds because of your iniquity.
So, why are you crying?
I look back at the sculpture. “Youth” has a stab wound, but he surely isn’t dead. And he isn’t crying. Because Jesus already took the stab, already suffered the bruises, already gave the last breath, “Youth” doesn’t have to. He looks down as his wound in astonishment that despite the betrayal and injustice, He is still alive. He is alive because he is free. And he, just like you and me, is alive because He died.
So, stab me if you must. Then make your checks to confirm my death and what you will see, under my shirt, is the blood of Jesus, pouring out from my skin, healing my broken places and the pain of betrayal, confirming my everlasting life and my continuous freedom.