Surely, Not I
Leonardo da Vinci’s work hangs in dining hall of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy. Imagine sitting under this work of art to eat your oatmeal and porridge on a regular basis. (I don’t know what monks eat.)
Da Vinci’s work captures the very moment that Jesus announces that one of them would betray him. The disciples became distressed and to say to him one after another, “Surely, not I?” He portrays the astonishment of the gathered twelve. The moment is palpable and full of tension.
One feature about the painting—and one impossible to appreciate without seeing it in person (which I have not)—is that it is 15 feet high and 29 feet wide. In order to achieve the proper perspective, da Vinci hammered a small nail in the center of the wall. The hole is still there—in Jesus’ right temple. All points of the picture—the symmetrical walls and ceiling, the vanishing point on the horizon viewed through the open window, are relative to that one small nail hole.
I believe that has something to do with the power of this picture. EVERYTHING points to Jesus. EVERYTHING revolves around that one single, finite point.
Which is where we become involved in the picture. We are drawn into the action by the forced perspective that da Vinci employs. We are drawn in by the motion of the disciples. We are drawn in by the drama, the frozen moment, ‘Surely, not I?’
The betrayal of Jesus runs deep. No one sitting around that table could fathom rejecting Jesus. Yet by the end of Friday, Judas and the other eleven had abandoned, betrayed, and rejected Jesus. Again, we are drawn into the drama…surely not I? Not us? Not now? Not again?