This week, as we approach the most holy day of the year, I am very busy preparing the music for Easter Sunday. If you have been following God thru the Arts recently you may have noticed my friend and fellow art lover Adam Nettesheim and his wonderful series on the Stations of the Cross. I encourage you to look for his posts: #godthrutheartsdevostationsofthecross
and follow the entire GTA team on Facebook @Godthruthearts.
Guest Post: Adam Nettesheim
Station 14: Jesus is Laid in the Tomb.
The final station takes us to the grave. The dead body of Jesus is laid in a borrowed tomb. The light of the world has been extinguished. The hope of all nations is gone.
God is dead…or that’s how things appeared.
The disciples went into hiding. Many women involved in His ministry mourned and made preparations to attend to His corpse. Those who believed in Him the most, were grief-stricken and heartbroken.
Those of us who live on the other side of Easter have the benefit of seeing what happened 3 days later, but try to put yourself in their place. The one you believed would overthrow the Romans and restore the nation of Israel had died like a common insurrectionist! The Messiah did not save us like we thought He would and all the boldness you felt as you preached and assisted in the miraculous, all the fullness of your heart that swelled at the raising of the dead, every ounce of your sense of courage is gone. And you think:
I guess we were mistaken. I guess… we were wrong. Death really is the end. The sadness will last forever.
There is no hope. All is lost.
But we’ve heard stories like this before.
In this way, the King of Syria sends his great army to capture just one man – a trouble-making prophet, his servant saw their hopeless situation. They were surrounded. Surrounded by an army! Horses and chariots. Swords and spears. A well-trained military against an old man and essentially his intern. All the physical evidence pointed to a certain death for them.
There was no hope. All was lost.
As I watch the news I can become quite discouraged about the state of our world, and the world that my children will inherit. War, terror, violence, death, disease, famine, plague, natural disasters, hate, division, rage, oppression, abuse, rape, murder, theft, deceit, confusion… There are times where things seem too far gone. It can appear that the sadness will last forever. That all is lost, and there doesn’t seem to be much point in hoping. After all, doesn’t hope just keep you from accepting your fate? Isn’t it better to accept the harshness of life than pretend things could be any different? Aren’t we fools to hope?
The stone has been set over the tomb. There is nothing to be found among the dead.
And the sun sets on Saturday night.
But there is a Sunday Morning coming. There is a daybreak on the horizon. There is light and high beauty forever beyond the reach of the darkness. The prophet could see what the servant could not.
“Oh Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.”
A woman weeps at the entrance of the tomb of her dead Messiah. Her devotion to Him is more powerful than her sorrow, yet still He must be dead. Though His body was not in the tomb it must be because someone took Him away. Why couldn’t they just leave Him to rest in peace?! Haven’t they done enough to Him? A man, she assumes is the gardener interrupts her mourning.
“Woman, why are you weeping?”
“They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”
“Whom are you seeking?”
“Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”
Why have we felt the need to explore the Stations of the Cross through other stories and through art depicting other events? It is our wish to give all of our eyes the chance to see that God has been writing His story of love and redemption throughout all the stories in scripture. He also speaks to us in the natural world that surrounds us and even finds ways to weave the thread of His truth into the myths and art and stories we’ve told each other since the beginning! Yet I know for myself, I can often be so blind to hope in times of great fear. I can skip right past the signposts of God’s love when I am not looking for them. And I hang my head so low because of my own failings and the worries of a fallen world to the point that I never lift my head towards the light that shines and reflects all around me.
“Oh Lord, please open my eyes that I may see.”
We have followed these stations the long way around so that by this scenic route perhaps our hearts can be fuller, our minds more awake and our souls more in love with the God who so loved the world, that He sent His only Son. The cross He carried was heavy with the weight of the world and all of human history. The wounds He endured were for the healing of the nations. The God King became the Servant and died a criminals death to awaken in us the simple fact written in scripture, nature and our own hearts – God loves you.
“Oh Lord, please open our eyes that we may see.”
When Vincent Van Gogh was in a psychiatric asylum in Saint-Paul-de-Mausole after his fits of despair compelled him – forced him to a place where he cut off his own ear as a gift to a woman, yet even in the darkness of his struggle, he painted. He painted things he could not always see. He painted things that many of us cannot see. And yet, he painted the world not as we can see it, but as it truly is. Beautiful. Vibrant. Mysterious. The swirls of light and color, the shapes alive with movement and deep connection to one another. The air itself thick and living. The light, oh the light he painted – even as he himself struggled to see it in his own life – stands as a testimony that God can enter into any story and use anyone to tell the tale He has been speaking to humanity since the Garden of Eden.
Van Gogh’s most well-known work, “Starry Night” was painted from his room on the second floor of the asylum in the south of France. As he struggled with bouts of fear and sadness that would impossibly overtake him, this man, after they had subsided, would pick up a brush and paint lasting masterpieces of what he could not see in the times when the darkness closed in around him.
When I look at the “Starry Night” I don’t see an abstract painting. I feel as if I am looking at the world in the way that I was meant to see it, but fail.
Too often I am that darkened church that fears to participate and acknowledge the magnificent work of God all around me because it does not feel safe or controlled. I am ashamed of my hopelessness, but that breeds even more hopelessness.
And yet Van Gogh paints, and the Armies of the Lord blaze around us…And the tomb is empty.
From the parables to the brothers torn apart. From a burning bush to the belly of a great fish. From Genesis to Revelation, Namaan to Ruth, Solomon and a snake on a stick, a strong man in the temple of a false god and a baby in a basket. These accounts and so many more tell a story that’s true. In scriptures and stories and stones and stallions, our God writes His message to us.
These stations are to give us an empathetic experience of what our Savior did that first Good Friday. But they are also meant to awaken our imagination to what He is doing today!
May we see past death. May we see beyond fear. May we see through the darkness.
And though we know that in this life we cannot fully see every connection, every detail, every beautiful brushstroke our Heavenly Father has painted on this canvas of life, we still seek and ask:
May our eyes be open. May we see.
When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
– 2 Kings 6:15-17 (ESV)
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher).
– John 20:15-16 (NASB)
And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.
– John 21:25 (NKJV)
“Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.”
― Helen Keller
The song: In the Night ( My Hope Lives On) is a fine way to end this series on the Stations of the Cross. Andrew Peterson beautifully takes us through scripture to the Cross as we look for hope in the night… seeking the light when we cannot see… and leading us through the tomb to Easter morning.
Wishing you peace and blessings from God thru the Arts:)