It’s Easter Friday. Jesus’ trial was the swiftest in history. He is crucified and buried before the end of the day as the Jewish Sabbath fast approaches.
This watercolour and gouache painting is inspired by the mostly unknown painting by Swiss artists Eugène Burnand. It is a painting that depicts the incredible expressions on the faces of Peter and John as they run towards the tomb on the morning of the resurrection in his work titled “Resurrection 1898”. They have just been told by Mary Magdalene and the other women that the tomb was empty. You can view the story of the image below written by Michael Frost here: https://mikefrost.net/greatest-easter-painting-time/
“The picture crackles with kinetic energy. It is a study in desperate anticipation. Surely this is also the posture with which we should approach Easter. Leaning in, wringing our hands, clutching our chests, desperate for it to be true.” ~Mike Frost
But I think it is right to expect this was not the expression that Peter had on his face on Friday when his Teacher, Rabbi, Saviour and friend, whom he denied three times when asked if he knew Jesus, was crucified. In the painting titled Peter, regret, fear, hopelessness, and bewildered all masked by disbelief and grief. Disbelief in his own denial of knowing Jesus. Disbelief in who he thought Jesus was, the Son of God, the Son of Man, the Saviour of the world, now dead and buried. To the right of Peter, the three crosses all the same size unlike other renditions of the crucifixion that often depict the cross of Jesus more prominent than the two crosses the two criminals hung on either side of Jesus. Here they are the same. Jesus, God in the flesh, made fully man, fully God chose to be like one of us, but without sin. Chose to be born to a yet to be married teen, in a culture that would have her stoned. Jesus chose to walk beside the lowest of the low, to do the tasks of the lowest of the low, all to show us just how lost those who knew God were at the time. He was teaching how to live and love others as God loves us. How different is it from now?
As I reflected on Easter as it approached, actually as an overthinking masked as an over reflector, yes I am getting help for it, I thought a lot about Burnand’s work, about how the disciples didn’t really fully understand who Jesus was until after the resurrection, and some not even until the transfiguration. I wonder if I would be any different. The answer is a resounding no. As life continues to flow on day after day, living in the tension of not yet is a tough gig. Only made tougher without the daily presence of God. I am not about to Jesus it all up to make is look like it’s so easy walking with him. It doesn’t change the mess. It can and does change how I process it. Knowing that God is central is sometimes the only reason I can get up every morning and put on my adult and get on with it. God has sat with me in the pit of my wallowing and self-pity, but not left me there. He has held me in times when the pain of breathing through grief was more painful than the grief itself, and not left me there. He has sat front and center in times of depression and carried me through more things than I have known or could ever name and yet this expression on Peter’s face is all too familiar to me when I live focused on the tension of not yet or regrets. If I feed it, I have little doubt that it would rob me of my hope that Jesus brings.
What does your reflection on Easter look like? Is it with great expectation of hope, freedom and the truth that sets you free, given in grace and mercy, or is your focus on the tension of not yet?