I am sharing some of my questions, thoughts, and art here with an invitation for you to join me in creatively considering the story of Jesus the Messiah in curiosity and wonder. I have not provided much in the way of direct answers. It’s my preference as an artist to help people discover they probably have some questions and answers of their own just waiting to surface. Mostly, I think these are starting points with a lot more that could be said. If you would like to have some conversation about the art or the questions I’ve shared then please leave a comment here (at bottom of post). You can also find me on facebook - Jennifer Neal, or on instagram - graceandcircumstance.
And thank you for visiting the gallery!
What kind of messiah do we want? What do we want Jesus to save us from? How do the needs of an empire clash with the kingdom of God?
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” These are words from Psalm 22 that Jesus says on the cross. In the psalm David writes about the “strong bulls of Bashan” surrounding him threateningly, along with roaring lions and packs of dogs. Through Psalm 22, the list of animals involved in the Holy Week story is expanded. In Matthew, Jesus spoke of rocks and stones breaking into song if people didn’t. People waved palm fronds. The sky turns dark when Jesus dies. Nonhuman creation is included throughout the Biblical story of loss and redemption. All creation waits for a messiah.
The rooster crows when Peter denies Jesus a third time. Why is that part of the story? Why did Jesus tell Peter that his denials would be marked that way? Does it matter?
I imagine Peter hearing a rooster first thing every morning and being reminded of his failures to heroically stand by Jesus’s side. Wouldn’t he feel shame for his betrayal? Should he? Should he live in perpetual humiliation for not being perfect? Or is there another way to hear the rooster’s crow? What if it communicated forgiveness, humility, reconciliation, steadfastness, and love just when Peter would have needed it most? What if the rooster crowing is less about Peter and more about Jesus? What if our heroic efforts and intentions just don’t matter as much to Jesus as they do to us?
When Jesus called Peter as a disciple he said he would make him a fisher of men. But Jesus was crucified. Now what? Emptiness. Loss. Guilt. Regret. Shock. Fear. Sorrow. Confusion. I don’t know what Peter really felt. But his story always fascinates me. Peter is impulsive and passionate and makes a lot of mistakes. It seems like there is always this better, more intense, beautiful, richer kind of life that Peter longs to experience and Jesus offered that life. All of a sudden the life Jesus was offering looked wholly and completely different than it did before.
In Lamentations the narrator acknowledges the pain of Jerusalem personified as a woman and says “Your wounds are as deep as the sea. Who can heal you?” The gospels suggest that it’s one who suffers the same wounds, one who has been mocked and despised and crowned with thorns, one who has the vision to see how deep the wounds really are and doesn’t look away.
John 21 tells the touching, beautiful, and somewhat comical story of Peter’s restoration and reconciliation with Jesus. Though it takes place after Easter Sunday, I think it communicates the goodness of being alive with the risen Christ.