At college, in the class on mission, our tutor showed us paintings from around the world. Today, as I listen to the modern American worship band Third Day singing an “old time religion” hymn Blessed Assurance on my mp3 player, these images of Jesus, painted by artists from around the world, cross my mind.
As Third Day sing, “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine”, I think of the glimmer of joy in one of my classmate’s eyes when he recognised his country’s language on one of the pictures (The Ethiopian Egg). “This says Christ,” he tells us about one of the words written on the picture. He looks at this picture of Jesus as one looks at a photo of a friend, as if remembering the good days. The days before the persecutions began, and he had to flee his country. He points out to me the light that surrounds the egg upon which Jesus is painted.
As Third Day sing “Oh what a foretaste of glory divine”, I think of another picture. One depicting the birth of our Saviour Jesus but painted in a slum, with all the madness and chaos circling around him. It’s an uncomfortable picture to see. And I think of the church in Kibera, one of the largest slums in Kenya. I think of the hope in the hearts of the people, despite all that surrounds them.
As Third Day sing “heir of salvation, purchase of God”, I think of the painted cross from El Salvador, depicting images of life. Farming, nursing babies, teaching children in schools, a woman dancing. I think of my tutor telling us that the cross was painted to honour, Maria Cristina Gomez, a primary school teacher, who was killed for her beliefs. I think of the young women kidnapped from their school dormitory in Nigeria and pray for their safety and for their freedom.
As Third Day sing “Born of His spirit, washed in His blood”, I think of the image of “The Korean Cross”, of a Korean Jesus carrying a cross to Golgotha. However His cross is shaped like a divided country. The artist’s pain is visible. I think of the divided countries across the world. I think of the Christ who carries us in our weakness.
The series of pictures is called “The Christ We Share.” Each picture is an attempt by the artist to capture what Jesus means to him or her. Each picture, an invitation into someone’s understanding of Jesus.
As Third Day sing gently “la, la, la, la” and I think of the pictures of Jesus I grew up with – blue eyed, blond hair, petting lambs. Suddenly that picture no longer does Him justice. Through the eyes of the world, I realise that Jesus is so much more than a caretaker at a petting zoo. He’s a wanted man (‘Wanted Poster”, Latin America), warrior (“The Lion of Judah”, Masai), part of the community (“The Golden Bowl”, Cameroon), and being reborn in peoples’ lives every day, now.
And seeing Him through the eyes of my classmate reminded me that Jesus is ours, and we are His.
And (as the song goes), may we all be “filled with His goodness” and “lost in His love.”
For more information on “The Christ We Share”, see http://www.cms-shop.org.uk/mall/productpage.cfm/CMS/_W.PACK004/-/The%20Christ%20we%20Share
For more information on Third Day, see https://www.thirdday.com/music/songs/blessed-assurance