In Dostoevsky’s novel The Idiot, a character named Ippolit describes his perspective of Holbein’s painting, entitled “Christ in the Tomb.” It is, he says, “an out-and-out depiction of the body of a man who has endured endless torments even before the crucifixion[.]” He goes on to tell in detail how the effects of the tortures endured by Christ were captured by Holbein in this painting. Eventually he points out the point of this painting: “…if a corpse like that…was seen by all his disciples…how could they have believed, look at such a corpse, that the martyr would rise again?…one has the impression of nature as some enormous, implacable, dumb beast, or…in the guise of a vast modern machine which has pointlessly seized, dismembered, and devoured…a great and priceless being, a being worth all of nature and all of her laws, worth the entire earth-which indeed was perhaps created solely to prepare for the advent of that being!”
Through this description by his character Ippolit, Dostoevsky gives us a reminder of the undeniable monstrosity that is the world; the very God which created it and sustains its existence is put through such agony of body and soul, and then killed in the most humiliating fashion, once He has allowed it to occur.
The world (encompassing both Satan and the passions of the flesh) seeks no peace with holiness, and recognises no authority other than itself; there is no compromise with it. This is why Christ declared that no one can serve two masters; sin will continually seek full control and the destruction of piety, humility, faithfulness, prayer, and all other virtues of a life connected to Christ. While Christ suffered and lay dead, the world eagerly sought to kill Him, and reveled in that death, before His glorious resurrection.
Not only is the way of nature, the way of flesh, to kill of all traces of Christ, all holiness, but even the role of Christ is constantly attacked naturally by society. Consider that Jesus is increasingly thought of by many as a “good man,” a prophet, a hippie, a great teacher, and a number of other roles that can be played by mere humans. His Deity is slowly eliminated, thereby reducing Him to a man, leaving Him in the tomb. We must remember and make known who He is.
(Alan Meyer’s translation of Идиот was quoted in this piece)
(The painting described can be seen at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b4/Hans_Holbein-_The_Body_of_the_Dead_Christ_in_the_Tomb.JPG)