Centuries ago a great artist was engaged to paint a mural for the cathedral in a Sicilian town. The subject was the life of Christ. For many years the artist labored diligently, and finally the painting was finished except for the two most important figures: the Christ Child and Judas Iscariot. He searched far and wide for suitable models.
One day while walking in the city he came upon some children playing in the street. Among them was a 12-year-old boy whose face stirred the painter’s heart. The artist took the child home with him, and day after day the boy sat patiently until the face of the Christ Child was finished. But the painter still had found no model for the portrait of Judas.
The story of the unfinished masterpiece spread afar, and many men, fancying themselves of wicked countenance, offered to pose for Judas. But in vain the old painter looked for Judas, as he envisioned him-a man warped by life, enfeebled by surrender to greed and lust.
Then one afternoon as he sat in a tavern, a gaunt and tattered figure staggered across the threshold. ‘Wine, wine,’ he begged. The startled painter looked into a face that seemed to bear the marks of every sin of mankind. Greatly excited, the old painter said, ‘Come with me, and I will give you wine.’
For many days the painter worked feverishly to complete his masterpiece. As the work went on, a change came over the model. A strange tension replaced the stupors languor, and his bloodshot eyes were fixed with horror on the painted likeness of himself.
One day, perceiving his subject’s agitation, the painter paused in his work. My son, he said, what troubles you so?
The man buried his face in his hands, sobbing. After a long moment he lifted pleading eyes to the old painter’s face. Do you not then remember me? Years ago I was your model for the Christ Child.
Special thanks to Malladi Venkata Krishnamurthy for sharing this spiritual story with us!