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That Expensive Jesus in Abu Dhabi


Abu Dhabi Credit: Stephane PERES/Flickr/Creative Commons

Abu Dhabi: The new home of Leondardo da Vinci’s Savior of the World  Credit: Stephane PERES/Flickr/Creative Commons

Hey, would you like to see Jesus, the savior of the world? It’s gonna cost you.

When viewing becomes possible, you will have to travel to the heart of the Middle East, and buy a ticket, if you can get one, and line up.

Here’s the story. Leonardo Da Vinci is credited with painting the most expensive work of art in the world, although possibly some of his students contributed. The painting is a picture of Jesus and it’s named “Salvator Mundi” or “Savior of the World.” This painting recently went up for auction in New York and there was a fierce bidding war for it.

The final price was $450 million US. The first reports were that a wealthy prince in Saudi Arabia named Mohammed won the bid; Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. That was corrected by records that showed the bidder was actually Saudi Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, a relative of the first prince.

Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World) by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) Credit: Wikipedia

Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World) by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) Credit: Wikipedia

So, some wealthy Saudi princes just paid too much for a picture of Jesus, Savior of the World, and now they want to show it to everyone. The guardians of Mecca want to show Jesus to the world.

One important part of the story is that a satellite campus of the Louvre opened in November of 2017, in Abu Dhabi. That’s a city in the United Arab Emirates, close to Saudi Arabia and with the same culture and religion. The original Louvre is in Paris, and the new campus is a major coupe for Abu Dhabi. The government wants to diversify the economy away from just oil and gas, and the museum will help. “Salvator Mundi” will be displayed here.

By my math, if 450 thousand people visit the museum to see the artwork, over about ten years, and pay ten dollars each, the owners can recover their costs. The real numbers are probably very different, but by my rough estimate, the painting might turn into a profit maker some day.

Jesus might be good for them.

In the Bible, Jesus traveled to Jerusalem on a donkey, and the people on the road began to shout “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” and “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”. This story is where we get the praise word “hosanna.” The religious leaders told Jesus to make the people stop shouting and He answered “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40)

I think the expensive painting in the museum is one of those stones. It’s not safe to shout “Jesus saves!” in many parts of the world, but now the government in one of those places has opened a museum and payed a vast fortune for a picture of Jesus, with the title of “Savior of the World.” Maybe they will sell tee shirts.

Jesus also said “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32) I never imagined that ‘lifting up’ would include an overpriced picture in a museum.

Personally, I recommend a relationship with a living person over a picture of a dead one. The artist’s model who posed for the painting is long gone, but the real Jesus is still with us, if we want Him. And humble people lift Him up, where they can. My favorite expression of this is a song recorded by Emmylou Harris. Someone has added pictures that make the point, humble people who lift up Jesus, is our heritage. No stones need to cry out in those places.

I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever. Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works … (Psalm 145: 1 to 6)

 

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