Sunday, January 29, 2012

Light of Suffering

16x20, Graphite on Clay Panel
This has been the most emotional, thoughtful and heart wrenching journey.  I never thought it would lead to this but here I am.  And now that it comes to it I don't really know how to share my heart.  I admit I'm afraid of what you might see and not see.  I'm afraid you might think me dishonoring to a God that I dearly and deeply love.  I'm afraid you won't see my frail effort at trying to grasp at the hem of his garment just to be near Him.

I told myself I would NOT do any artworks of Jesus as I felt I could never honor Him properly.  I will freely admit to you I still feel that way.  I've come to the altar and my sacrifice seems so trite and blemished.  I see that I can't "polish" this one up and make it what everyone would like.  So in a way I'm laying down you, my audience, for an audience of one.

Beth Moore wrote in her book, Get Out of That Pit, "Christ got down next to us in the grave, stayed the better part of three days, and then got we have permission to get up too. And start living."  I love that.  He got up so I could get up.  He breathed His last so I don't ever have to.  Not really. 

He is the 2nd Adam, come to make all things right and good again.  Only this Adam has scars.  Scripture says that He let Thomas touch his nail scarred hands and touch the wound in his side.  Thomas didn't ask to see His back but I bet there were scars there too.  Ever pondered that?  That our perfect, beautiful God has scars?  What does that mean for my life? That there might be wounds, stripes, great pain? As God works on me to look more like Him will it look like I've been in a battle?  I don't presume to have the same scars as Christ but I know there will be pain. Something else Beth Moore wrote, "God entrusted that suffering to you.  Live up to it." 

I wanted to catch the moment He's pushing Himself up from the grave stone (almost like He just went right through the linen wrap).  I hope it shows His quiet strength.  I hope it shows His tender triumph.  He simply and wonderfully rose.

Remember these precious words from that great hymn, Up From the Grave He Arose: "Vainly they watch his bed, Jesus my Savior, vainly they seal the dead, Jesus my Lord!...He arose a victor from the dark domain, and He lives forever, with his saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!"

Scars on His side, wrist and back
I finished reading a book titled, Crucifixion by Martin Hengel.  It was a book about the mindset of the people of Jesus' day, the Romans, the Greek-speaking Gentiles and the Jews and how they viewed crucifixion as the most unspeakable, low form of death.  It was meant for the vilest of enemies or to keep servants in check.  It would never be for a god or the son of a god to die on a cross.
One particular passage from the book (the source was Melito's Homily on The Passion) says this about Jesus' death on the cross: "He who hung the earth (in it's place) hangs there, He who fixed the heavens is fixed there, He who made all things fast is made fast upon the tree, The Master has been insulted, God has been murdered, the King of Israel has been slain by an Israelitish hand. O strange murder, strange crime! The Master has been treated in unseemly fashion, his body naked, and not even deemed worthy of a covering, that (His nakedness) might not be seen. Therefore the lights of heaven turned away, and the day darkened that it might hide Him who was stripped upon the cross."

We've seen so many pictures of Jesus on the cross always with the loin covering.  Did you know He was crucified naked?  He was held up for all to see so that He would not only have the shame of exposure but for all to see His wounds, his life blood pouring out. 

Some of you might be wondering why Jesus is naked here in the grave.  After researching how they buried the dead of Jesus' day I came to believe that He was buried naked except for the linen covering. They had not had time to do the proper anointing after His death (since it was near the Sabbath).  We do know that He didn't remain naked as Mary Magdalene is later questioned by Jesus asking why she is crying and she believes Him to be the gardener (John 20:15).

I chose to put the wound in Jesus' wrist.  There is some discussion about where the nail was placed.  Scripture says in His "hand" but it is also believed that the wrist is part of the hand (for those in Jesus' day).  Some believe that the hand could not have held the weight of a full grown man and would have ripped eventually right through the hand.  There is also the scripture in John 19:36 that reminds us that not one of Jesus' bones would be broken.  In Hengel's book it explains how a Centurion would be very skilled in knowing exactly where to put the nails (he would have done it hundreds of times).  He would know the places that could bear the weight and not break bones until it was necessary.

The wound in Jesus' side was difficult as I didn't know which side was pierced.  All we know is that when it was pierced blood and water flowed out showing that Jesus' heart had actually stopped beating.  I have put the scar on left side.  I wanted to share two views of the wound in Jesus' side:

St. Augustine viewed the wound in Jesus side as symbolic of a door of salvation. He compared it to the door in the side of Noah's Ark where eight persons and animals went in to be saved from the flood.

George Hutchinson says, "His side was pierced and a passage opened to His heart so by His suffering we may look into His heart wounded with love for us, and pouring out itself for us and that as a hole was made
in Adam's side to take out a wife so a hole was made in His side to take in His beloved bride (the church) to His heart."

detail of His nail scarred foot

There was also some controversy over where the nails were placed in his feet.  I have chosen to put them in the traditional location but they may have been located in the soft place between the ankle bone and the Achilles tendon.  This was found from one of the only bodies they were able to find from a crucifixion (the deceased man had been a wealthy man's son so he was buried).  Usually those who were crucified were left for the birds to consume and so there was no way to find out what happened exactly.  With this particular man there was an actual nail through that soft place (the nail had dented making it difficult to get out so they left it).  Whatever the location we know it would have been difficult to stand let alone walk after such an injury.  I mention this to show the power of His resurrection.  He was scarred but He walked out of the grave.  He was perfect man and perfect God.

I love the light and hope that this picture shows how He rose into such a hopeful day.  HE is the light of the world and as light spills over His scarred body He lifts Himself up and walks out of the mouth of death.  My beautiful, precious Savior.  He did that for me.  He did that for you.