Panel from an ivory casket: The Crucifixion of Christ, AD 420-430, British Museum
Smaller than your hand, and the earliest known narrative portrayal of the crucifixion, this little ivory has a story to tell. Here is love betrayed, and here, too, is the despair and avarice of Judas (with a money-bag at his feet). Here is the story of Mary and John, who think that hope has been defeated. Here is the story of Longinus, who spears Christ’s side and sees him die.
That is quite a story, but it is not the whole story, for the man on the cross is not just another character in this complex scene. Look at him: Christ defeats the cross; he rides it into victory. And eternally, from that cross, he challenges us to see what those around him miss.
In love and betrayal, in life and death, Christ tells us the story of God. Christ is the Word, and this is the eloquence of God.
Dean of Bristol