Once when Jesus was praying by himself,
and the disciples were with him,
he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
They said in reply, “John the Baptist;
still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’”
Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.”
He scolded them
and directed them not to tell this to anyone.
He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.” Then he said to all,
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
This work is one of three versions of the event painted by Bosch, with the others residing in Ghent and Vienna (though the attribution of the Ghent painting has been questioned). In the Madrid version we see a simple composition with Christ at the center struggling under the weight of the Cross, while Simon of Cyrene tries to assist him. The crowd at left are Christ’s accusers and tormentors, painted as ugly caricatures to indicate their sin in executing the Savior. In the distance above Christ’s head we see a contemporary city from Bosch’s time, and the figures of the apostle John comforting Mary, the mother of Jesus. The guard to the right stares out at the viewer, which is often a device by which artists include their self-portrait, though I could find no literature substantiating this here. It may simply reinforce the stare of Christ, meant to challenge the viewer to take up his or her own cross and follow Jesus. As such, it is a powerful devotional image to use in meditation.
“Take, Lord, and receive, all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. You have given all to me. To You, O Lord, I return it. All is Yours. Dispose of it wholly according to Your will. Give me Your love and Your grace, for this is sufficient for me.” (Prayer of St. Ignatius)