Easter portraits

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From the Desk of ……

by Susan Harfoot, Colonel –

I am a visual learner with a deep appreciation for Christian art. During this season of Lent I have often meditated on some favorite works of art that depict the days that led up to Good Friday, Easter, and the Resurrection of Christ.

Author Roy Lessin has produced many books in collaboration with talented artists. In his book For Mine Eyes Have Seen Thy Salvation he joins with artist Brian Jekel. Together, the two artists walk through scripture with Lessin’s inspirational insights and Jekel’s incredible paintings. The events of Holy Week prior to the crucifixion are particularly moving. In the painting Christ’s Example Jekel paints a picture of the Passover meal – the last supper – when Jesus washes Peter’s feet. The scriptural reminder is found in Matthew 23:11 “But He that is greatest among you shall be your servant”. The lesson for every disciple is that we must follow Christ’s example and be servants carrying a towel and basin with God’s spirit enabling us to “love the un-loveable”, “clothe the naked”, and offer the “cup of cold water”. I can only imagine Peter’s thoughts as Jesus knelt before him and started to wash away the dirt and dust from his feet. Peter protested, but Jesus reminded him that the true lesson was not to be understood at that moment, but in the days to come. Peter would recall this act of love. Jesus said “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example. That ye should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:3-15). In our calling as followers of Christ we have daily opportunities to extend a servant’s hand to our brothers and sisters. I encourage you to take up the towel and basin and look with servant’s eyes and respond to those in need.

Another Jekel painting from The Master Peace Collection is a work titled Gethsemane’s Prayer . Following the Passover dinner, in the dark of night, Jesus takes three disciples with him to the garden and instructs them to wait and watch with Him. Scripture tells us they immediately fell asleep. (This was not the first time they were caught sleeping on the job.) Jekel’s painting shows the agony of the moment as Jesus kneels to pray and says “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. “ It is here He prays to His father God “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me, yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:36-42). The reminder for followers of Christ a call to discipline, stay awake, do as the Master has asked. Give good attention to His example when facing temptation, rejection, and suffering. Not every difficulty in life will be removed, but the Father walks through our circumstances with us and brings peace and comfort.

The book Road to the Cross portrays Christ’s struggle as he carries his cross to Golgotha. This was the only road that could accomplish God’s plan of salvation for the world. Lessin reminds believers that “His brokenness means that we can be made whole; His sorrow means that we can have fullness of joy; His rejection means that we can be accepted; His pain means that we can be healed: His death means that we can have life everlasting.”

There are numerous paintings of the crucifixion that are outstanding. One favorite is by Ron DiCianni titled The Cross. It portrays a believer kneeling at the foot of the cross with a large hammer in hand. The scripture reminder is from Colossians 2:13-15 where Paul writes that as believers we were once sinners but God made us alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins cancelling them by nailing them to the cross through Jesus Christ.

In the book My Lord and My God author Calvin Miller writes from the disciple Thomas’ point of view as he considers the events of the Passover meal, the garden arrest of Jesus, and the events following the resurrection. Illustrator Ron DiCianni paints vivid portraits depicting Thomas’s story, but he also depicts the suffering and grief of the women who were closest to Jesus. Mary Magdalene’s encounter in the garden with the risen Lord and her attempts to tell the others of His resurrection clearly portrays their love and devotion for Jesus. The concluding pictures in this book show Thomas’ recognition of Jesus as his cloud of doubt turns to joy and belief. Jesus reminds him “Because you have seen me; you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.” John 20:29.

Artist Chris Hopkins also collaborated with author Roy Lessin to create the book God Sent Us A Savior. Hopkins depicts Jesus with a broad smile sometimes laughing, often with his arms around people in 21st century clothing. Hopkins presents a Savior that became flesh and walks among His followers every day. The paintings of Jesus’ post resurrection find him embracing his people and Roy Lessin reminds the reader that as Easter people it is important to remember that “The Word did not become a philosophy, a theory, or a concept to be discussed debated or argued – the Word became a Person, to be followed, enjoyed, and loved. He reaches out to touch the child, hold the weak, free the captive, embrace the lonely, and restore all who have wandered away.” I pray this will be your Easter experience.

I would encourage those interested in art to find these paintings on the internet or perhaps purchase the books mentioned, and make them a part of your Lenten devotions.

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