Gratitude Day 252
Tues., Apr. 16, 2019
John 1:29 – The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
This painting always draws me in; especially during Holy Week.
In reality, it’s a rather simple painting. However, the meaning is anything but simple or easy.
It’s a lamb, tied and laying on a table. Ready to be sacrificed.
This painting is called Agnus Dei, which translated from Latin means, “Lamb of God.” It was painted by Francisco de Zurbaran and it housed at the Prado Museum in Madrid. After visiting the Prado and seeing this painting, I knew that I wanted a copy for myself. I’ve had a copy of this painting in my office for years.
Why is it so special? For me, it captures much of the Holy Week story in one image. To understand what this picture represents, we must go back to the Old Testament and the story of Abraham and his son Isaac.
Abraham is instructed by God to sacrifice his long-awaited son to demonstrate his love for God. He takes Isaac away to do this. Just before he is ready to put Isaac on the alter, God tells Abraham to not sacrifice his son. Instead, a lamb appears and becomes the sacrificial lamb that takes Isaac’s spot.
Go ahead a few hundred years to when Moses is pleading with Pharaoh to let the Israelites return to their Promised Land. God has inflicted multiple plagues onto the non-Jewish people. These plagues do not convince Pharaoh to let the Jewish people leave Egypt. Pharaoh needs the Jewish people as slaves and laborers. Who will build his building projects if the Israelites are not present?
In the 10th and final plague, God instructs the Israelites to kill a lamb. The Jews take blood from the lamb and paint it around their doorposts. When the Angel of Death comes, the Angel will see the blood and pass-over the Jewish people’s homes. Those without lamb’s blood around the door? Their eldest child will die. The lamb becomes the sacrificial lamb that takes the place of the eldest child in the Jewish households and preserves the eldest child.
Fast forward to the New Testament. Almost immediately in John’s Gospel. John the Baptist recognizes Jesus as the Lamb of God; the person who will once and for all absolve all of humanity’s sins. This is why Holy Week coincides with Jewish Passover. Jesus becomes the One who connects the two events.
Some people may look at this painting and think, “How can an innocent lamb help us understand God?” We don’t want a seemingly innocent lamb to become a symbol of the awful events of Holy Week, However, often, God uses very surprising and unexpected means to help people see and believe Jesus’ story.
Maybe the painting is significant for me because my sister’s and I raised sheep while growing up. Maybe the innocent lamb contrasts greatly with my sinful nature. Whatever the reason, this painting speaks volumes to me during this week.
I know … some of you maybe thinking, “Wouldn’t an image of the crosses be more fitting?” For some people, the crosses are an image that speaks to them. For me, I choose this other image. It helps me remember the root of why the whole story happened; why Jesus came to earth.
If you could choose an image or a symbol that captures Holy Week for you, what would it be? Why did you choose this versus something else? Why is this item so meaningful for you?
When we find something in today’s world that helps us see Holy Week’s events, we connect to the story in today’s terms. I think this is terribly important. The challenge is to take this awful story and make it speak to us today without loosing the intent and purpose of the story.
Take a few minutes today and determine what image or story or item speaks “Holy Week” to you. Discover a way that you can embrace seeing this item the rest of the week. Celebrate how this item speaks to you.
For images that help draw us into the biblical stories of Holy Week, I am grateful.
Lord God – it’s amazing how the stories throughout the Bible weave together and help explain Your deep love for us. May we find an image that speaks this to us this week. Amen.
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