Michelangelo’s Unfinished Works


Visitors to the Galleria dell’ Accademia in Florence, Italy can see four unfinished marble sculptures by the great Michelangelo. (One of these is shown above.)

On one hand you can see the beauty of the master’s work. On the other hand you can see areas where the artist did not work. They are still rough and unformed.

In the second chapter of Peter’s first epistle he talks about how we, as Christians, are a “stony” work in progress:

Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation – if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (I Peter 2:2-5)

And so there are parts of us where it is clear that the Lord has worked on us and we bear the distinctive imprint of the Master’s artistic hand. Yet there are still parts of us that are rough, that still need to be shaped and formed into something beautiful. Jesus’ disciples were certainly a work in progress. We read in the 14th chapter of John that the very last night that Jesus spent with the disciples before his Passion, the following conversation took place:

[1] Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. [2] In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? [3] And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. [4] And you know the way to where I am going.” [5] Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” [6] Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. [7] If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” [8] Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” [9] Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? [10] Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. (John 14:1-10 ESV)

From this passage it is clear that the disciples did not yet understand 1) that Jesus’ ultimate destination for them was a home in heaven, and 2) that seeing Jesus was the same as seeing the heavenly Father. Yes, they were a work in progress too.

Michelangelo’s sculptures are “frozen” in time. For whatever reason he did not finish them and no one has been brave enough to try to finish what he started. This is not the case with us. We are not frozen in time. God will keep working on us until he is done with us. Then he will take us to the place he has prepared for us in heaven. All the while he is preparing the place for us in heaven he is working in our lives here on earth to prepare us for that place.

Now if you ever get a chance to go over to Florence and see these unfinished sculptures, what would your eye be drawn to? Would you look at the parts that are finished? Or would your eye be drawn to the rough unfinished parts? What about in our lives? When we look at ourselves do we only look at the rough unfinished parts and wish we had more finished parts? Believe me, when God looks at us he sees the finished parts. He sees the finished parts because they are his own handiwork.

And it is beautiful. Michelangelo’s stone of choice was marble; considered by many to be the most beautiful stone on earth. We are beautiful in God’s sight too. He only works with the very best materials. Later in the same chapter of I Peter the apostle writes:

[9] But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. [10] Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10 ESV)



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