Friday, 8 September 2017

Living in the Shadows

As a lover of art, I’m often browsing paintings on the internet and today I came across an intriguing work that I’d hitherto not seen – “The Shadow of Death” by William Holman Hunt. It was painted around 1873 and now resides in the Manchester City Art Gallery.  It’s a clever construction, depicting Christ as very much alive in His workshop but with distinct references to his future crucifixion and back to his birth in Bethlehem. Mary, his mother, who had much to ponder about following her child’s miraculous birth and prophecies about his future, is seen looking towards the shadow on the wall.
Christ knew that His time on Earth was limited. He knew that He would suffer a horrendous and unjust death.  No matter what joy and fellowship and earthly pleasures He knew in this life, in a sense there was always that shadow upon it, the shadow that cumulated in the intense agony of Christ’s soul in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He sweated drops of blood, pleading with His Father God to spare Him, yet submitting to God’s will.
We all know shadows in our lives. The most fortunate of us know minor flickers of trouble or sadness. Others live with shadows that will follow them throughout their earthly lives- the pain of a permanent disability; the grief of an unexpected tragedy; the ticking time bomb of a loved one’s life-reducing illness; loss, betrayal – the list goes on. Shadows that never leave, that change forever the person that we were, the life that we expected to have.
Yet what is a shadow but a momentary lapse of the sun?
We know that death was not the end for Jesus. In a sense, the picture also tells another story. The earthen floor becomes that of a tomb, the reflected opening that of the open door where the stone was rolled away and we see the risen Christ, the cross and earthly Roman world behind Him, his body vibrant and muscular. Death and suffering are defeated. Jesus reigns.
So it is for us. We may suffer in this life, but we have the comfort and joy of Christ's love, and the presence of His Holy Spirit with us till the end. We have the  hope of a glorious life to follow in Heaven, where all tears are wiped away. Jesus said:

" Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."( John 14:27)
and the Bible promises the believers:
"Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Revelation 21:3,4)
This hope brings comfort and lasting joy unlike any other comforts that the world can provide. It is a sure and true hope for those in dark places. 
In the shadows, the Son still shines.

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