Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Mercy Only God Can Give - Jesus - An Easter Story

After being asked to illustrate the word Mercy I asked myself, how does one put a picture to a word like that? The story of the good Samaritan came to mind, but somehow that didn't seem to fit exactly. We've all been in a situation of that kind of mercy at one time or another. I wanted to depict it on a higher level. So I asked people, "What does mercy mean to you?"

The most impossible answer was this:  Forgiving the man who murdered one of your loved ones and doing his sentence for him.  Well, my first thought is no one would do that.  Whoever commits murder deserves their death sentence.  I would find it impossible to stand between the man and his death sentence with forgiveness.  Even more impossible to do his sentence for him.  It would take more than super human strength...and then, I realized that it was the perfect answer.

Within a day or two, there was some very disturbing news and still shots from a video about a girl who was stoned to death in Iraq. I was shocked to learn that some cultures still do that. The video stills showed a circle of men from the hips down and a girl being killed with stones thrown at her head.  (I will not be putting a link to the story as it is very disturbing. Google it and you will find it.)
The news these days is filled with horrific stories like this.

That story reminded me of the story in the Bible about the woman who was caught in the act of adultery and was judged to be stoned to death, but Jesus stood between her and her accusers.

It became very clear to me that I needed to do the painting based on that Bible story because it is a story of divine mercy and forgiveness.

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In my painting the girl stands unaware of the mercy she is about to receive. She was brought to Jesus by the Pharisees.  Her sin fully exposed. Caught in the act of adultery. According to Jewish law, the law of Moses, anyone caught (two or more witnesses) in the act of adultery was to be stoned to death.
The Pharisees were using this girl to trap Jesus in breaking the law and/or blaspheming against God by calling Himself the Son of God.
Did Jesus know the law? Would Jesus uphold the law? Would He say that He was the Son of God or say that He was God? 
Jesus didn't only know the law, but He came to this world to fulfill the law.
- the Law Of Moses.  The same law that God gave his people. The same law that states that anyone caught in the act of adultery was to be stoned to death.

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In this story, Jesus doesn't state that He is God or that He is the son of God, but He does show God's mercy. The kind of mercy that can only come from God and from someone who knows God intimately .

Jesus turned a potentially tragic situation into a story of mercy.

This painting illustrates how Jesus got their attention by being a peacemaker. He courageously knelt down not once, but two times to write in the sand in front of an angry, ready-to-kill crowd. Some think He was gathering his thoughts, but consider the situation. The crowd was going to stone the girl. Not the ideal thoughtful spot. I believe He was very purposeful in His actions and knew exactly what he was doing. I believe He was writing their sins into the sand. Perhaps even the same sin that they were accusing the woman of doing. When He said, "He who is without sin cast the first stone", the crowd dropped their stones and dispersed. The oldest ones first. 
What He wrote down must have been pretty revealing to be able to disperse them so quickly.

In this painting, I placed Jesus in a vulnerable position (kneeling) between the woman and the angry crowd because that is what He did - stood between us and our death sentence.  Sin leads to death.  Sometimes physically; always spiritually.  When we choose sin; we choose death.
The girl's uncovered hair, in a time when women covered their hair in public, symbolizes her exposure. Her body is wrapped in a white sheet representing both the shame she feels and her wrapping herself in the cleansing forgiveness she is about to receive.
Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"  Remember, two or more witnesses needed to be there for her to be judged of the crime.  There was no one. 

Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."  Jesus didn't say that she didn't sin, but cleansed her of her sin through forgiveness.

Jesus did not break any laws.  He could have said, "You are correct.  The law states that she should be killed." Instead, he showed them that they deserved the same sentence as they were willing to give the woman.  They saw their own sins exposed in the writings in the sand and left her with only Jesus standing there. The one who came to fulfill the law, forgave her of the sin that was leading to her death and then told her to go and live in that forgiveness.  She was saved from physical death by the grace of the law - there were no witnesses.  It is also a story to represent us being saved from spiritual death by grace through God's Son Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior - the One who came to fulfill the law.

Now, that's mercy.  Mercy only God can give.

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For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
~ John 3:16

There is no sin too great for God to forgive.  There is no one who can judge you of your sins as greater than their own because they are not without sin themselves.
Only Jesus who took all sin upon Himself  and died on the cross, who conquered that death and rose again for you and me so that we could live.  Only Jesus who knew the law and followed it perfectly has the right to judge. 
He chooses mercy.

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