Gregg Nydegger column sig

What’s black and white and black and white and black and white?

No joke, it’s the Siena Cathedral.

This Tuscany treasure, sitting atop the highest point in Siena, Italy, is striped outside and inside with alternating bands of white and greenish-black marble.

It’s no optical illusion, but an architectural tribute to the city’s symbolic colors of black and white. The medieval “Duomo di Siena” (its Italian name) is nearly 800 years old.

Built on the site of a 9th century church building, construction began in 1215 and finished in 1263. For a bit of subdued color, builders accented the façade with red marble.

Tuscan Romanesque architecture combined with Gothic ornamentation give this Cathedral of Santa Maria, built in the shape of a Latin cross, a visually stunning exterior. A gilded lantern, resembling the sun, crowns the structure’s hexagonal dome. The adjoining, striped 252-foot-tall bell tower, containing six bells, adds to the building’s beauty.

Its inner beauty dazzles, too. Magnificent striped columns rise from the floor halfway to the ceiling to support great arches. Resting on these arches, the ribs of the massive vaulted roof crisscross from side to side, surrounded by stained glass windows to let God’s natural light shine in on man-made artistry. Frescoes, sculptures, and panels by renowned Italian artists Donatello, Bernini, Giovanni, Piccolomini, and more adorn the structure.

Not to be outshone, the marble mosaic floor is majestic, too. Fifty-six inlaid panels, depicting scenes from the Old Testament and other historical events, transform the cathedral’s floor into a work of art.

There’s nothing plain about Siena’s striped “Duomo.”

There was nothing fancy about Jesus’ life. That was one reason many Jewish religious leaders and most ordinary Jews rejected the idea that He was their prophesied and long-awaited Christ.

They scoffed at Jesus because He was from Nazareth. Jewish scholars knew Scripture foretold their Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, just outside of Jerusalem. They believed their Christ would enter God’s holy city and Temple with pomp and pageantry as befitted a king. They concluded that God would surely have nothing to do with Nazareth, a backwoods burg of no repute and Jesus’ hometown.

Maybe they should’ve asked Him where He was born rather than assuming He’d always lived in Nazareth!

The Jews put down Jesus and His family members, suggesting they were nothing special, that they’d never be royals.

“Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother called Mary? And aren’t his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us?” (Matthew 13:55-56).”

In other words: “Jesus, we know your family. You’re no king! Far from it!” In fact, religious leaders insinuated He was of illegitimate birth and demon-possessed (e.g., John 8:48), hardly the sort of person they believed God would be associated with. They deemed Him a deluded Messiah wannabe.

Jesus rejected popularity and acclaim during His ministry. He often hung out with the sick, diseased, infirm and poor. He taught women, prostitutes, Samaritans and the “dregs” of Jewish society.

“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” His disciples were asked (Matthew 9:11). The intimation? That God would never allow His Messiah to associate with those sorts of outcasts and lowlifes.

On another occasion, a religious leader snarkily thought to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he’d know who’s touching him and what kind of woman she is — that she is a sinner (Luke 7:39).”

However, Jesus was no imposter or poser. God never intended His Son to be a political king, military hero, or social debutante. Writing 600 years before the Messiah’s birth, the prophet Isaiah foretold details about the Messiah.

“He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:2-3, 5).”

At the end of His ministry, Jesus was scourged (leaving stripes) and crucified. Three days later He rose from the dead, proving that, regardless of what anyone thought, He was indeed Messiah, Christ, Anointed One and Son of God.

Quoting Isaiah, the apostle Peter gave the essence of the gospel in 1 Peter 2:24 — “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds (stripes) you have been healed.”

Have you been crucified with Christ through baptism into His death, burial and resurrection? Have His stripes become yours? Have you been spiritually healed?

Gregg Nydegger is the evangelist at Christ’s Church at Monticello.

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