As I return to this painting, and Cottrell quotes Jo Shapcott’s poem “The Scorpion” with the repeated line “I kill it”, I notice what I had not noticed before – that Christ doesn’t look uncomfortable at being among these poisonous creatures. His words were considered poison by some – is Christ the third scorpion in this painting? Our foreknowledge tells us that he too will be killed, on a rubbish dump.
Cottrell reminds us that the Father will not give us a scorpion instead of an egg (Luke 11:11-12) – but in the wilderness a famished Christ has been given just that. Cottrell suggests Jesus is given the thing he most fears, the thing that could kill him, and that this is part of the temptation. But how about if the poison is a means of escape from all that lies ahead for Jesus? A fast get out from suffering to come? The scorpion he holds in his hands is reminiscent of that most pitiful cry from Gethsemene ‘Take this cup of poison from me’. (Just read the next line from Cottrell who says pretty much the same).
The other mention of a scorpion in the Gospels comes at Luke 10:17 where Jesus tells his disciples that “I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions….nothing will hurt you”. I am not prepared to put my Lord God to the test on this one! But Jesus doesn’t tread on the scorpion, he treats it with gentleness. He has as much love and respect for the scorpion as he did for the daisies. He holds the scorpion as we hold out our hands and hold a communion wafer.
In that communion wafer is a world of pain at the death of Jesus and at our own sinful nature. But also within it is an eternity of grace, forgiveness, wholeness and holiness.