Dear pastors, missionaries, chaplains and friends,
Steve here… Art is powerful. Whether a painting, a sculpture, a dance, a play or a movie; art has the ability to move the soul and stir even the most hardened heart. We often understate its capacity to communicate deeply the truths of the Gospel.
Stand in front of one of Caravaggio’s religious-themed masterpieces and be prepared for sensory overload. I had to sit down and wipe my tears when I visited a show displaying his work.
Easter is coming. So much art has depicted this critical event in human history. One of my favorites is Holman Hunt’s, “The Shadow of Death.”
From 1870-1873, Holman Hunt traveled and lived in the Holy Land. He was a European master painter and story teller who was determined, as he put it, “to do battle with the frivolous art of the day.” On the roof-top of his home in Jerusalem he finished painting, what arguably could be his most loved painting. He entitled this exquisite work which now hangs in the Manchester City Art Gallery, “The Shadow of Death”
The painting depicts Jesus standing, stripped to the waist in his carpenter’s shop in Nazareth. He has put down his saw and his eyes are lifted toward heaven with his arms stretching above his head. The evening sunlight streams through the front door and casts a DARK SHADOW in the form of a CROSS on the wall behind Him. His tool rack hangs on that wall and forms the horizontal bar of the symbolic cross. The tools hanging there, the hammer and nails, are fateful harbingers of things to come.
Holman Hunt’s “The Shadow of Death” depicts a cross-like shadow on a wall. But Jesus’ shadow of death would become a REALITY. Jesus’ death, in fact, is central to His MISSION.
His own testimony was succinct and simple: “I’ve come to seek and save the lost”.
The CROSS represents for the believer that finished work so that we might be saved.
The Buddhist has his lotus flower.
The Muslim has his crescent moon.
And the Jew has his Star of David.
Christians have their symbol — the cross. An emblem associated with pain and death. It has allusions to the shameful execution of common criminals. Also to the daily putting to death of our sinful ways.
Several years back a terrorist blew himself up among Jews celebrating the Passover in a large gathering. Twenty were killed and 100 were injured. A tragedy.
Two millennia ago, another Passover massacre occurred when a cohort of temple guards illegally seized Jesus. The judge condemned Him to death during a mock trial.
Jesus stood in an open gathering accused of blasphemy and was asked: “I demand in the name of the Living God that you tell us whether you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” (Matthew 26:63) Our Emmanuel, God with us, willingly SACRIFICED Himself not to kill, injure or maim anyone, but to give us newness of life, eternal life!! His personal massacre became a message of hope for all of us!!
Thank you, Lord Jesus. May we boldly proclaim this Good News this Easter to family, friends and strangers. I’m going to give A.W. Tozer the last word:
“The cross is rough, and it is deadly, but it is effective. It does not keep its victim hanging there forever. There comes a moment when its work is finished… After that is resurrection glory and power, and the pain is forgotten for joy that the veil is taken away and we have entered in actual experience the Presence of the living God.
A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God
Have a blessed week,