Easter is just a little over a week away and I want to share a mural I created and tell you what it’s about. I think this mural correlates well with the upcoming season.
First of all, this mural was a collaborative project between my friend Dave Mattison and I, who God gave an art talent to as a middle-aged adult, when a co-worker asked him to draw a picture of a deer. His co-worker wanted to give the drawing to another guy at the factory who was goofing off and then caught like a deer in the headlights by the supervisor.
Dave said, “You know I can’t draw very well, just doodles.”
“It doesn’t have to be that good,” the coworker replied.
Later on, Dave held the pencil in his hand, ready to draw. Wanting to come up with a halfway-decent drawing, Dave thought for a moment and prayed, “Lord, you know I can’t draw, but if I hold this pencil, you could draw the deer through me!”
And that’s just what he did. The deer was very well done. I had just gotten to know Dave around this time when he told me the story. He had never really drawn anything well up until that point, but then the Lord gave him a talent to draw, just like that, out of the blue.
Seeing the way God blessed him, I wanted Dave to be a part of this mural project, and he agreed to help me with it.
The mural Dave and I did is 28′ wide by 4′ high, consisting of a series of 4′ x 4′ hardboard panels, and it spans nearly the entire width of our church’s foyer. (You can see this mural in person at Bethel Church in Eau Claire, WI, by the way.) It is an illustration of the gospel message, that is, the Good News of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross, from Genesis to Revelation. Isn’t that what Easter is about, anyway?
Before we can get to the good part, we have to set the stage.
There always has to be darkness before light can be appreciated.
Check it out in the Bible.
Genesis 1:1-3: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.
In the first panel of this mural, we see that God created everything out of nothing, and it was good. You can see the beautiful, lush garden of Eden. Vegetation and flowers adorn the hills, the clouds are perfect pearls of white set in the deep blue sky; everything is just as it should be.
But then we notice Adam and Eve leaving the garden in sorrow. They were cast out because they disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit. This is where darkness, sin and suffering entered the world. Compressing the events of several years into one image, we show them grieving not only because they are kicked out of the house, so to speak, but because their son lies dead on the ground. Their firstborn son, Cain was jealous of the younger son Abel and killed him.
In the foreground, do you notice the venom of the snake (the Devil) coming from the forbidden fruit and leaking into the stream?
This is symbolic of how sin entered the world through the temptation the Devil brought to Eve and then Adam, as they gave in and disobeyed the clear command of God. Sin is simply disobeying the commands of God. The once clear stream of human existence and consciousness has gotten muddied. People’s consciences, once clean and pure, became foggy, and eventually after years of giving into sin, downright evil. We can learn from the Bible that…
As society seems to be advancing in knowledge, the world is actually getting worse. However, God knows, and He has a plan.
In the next panel, actually even before we get to the next panel, we notice stormy clouds brewing in the background.
Then, you will notice in this second panel, Noah’s ark resting upon a mountaintop. Do you remember the story of Noah’s Ark from your childhood? The colorful picture books of lions, elephants and zebras, poking their heads out of a cartoonish, rounded boat that couldn’t even fit a few animals from your local petting zoo does nothing to help us imagine what the real ark would have looked like. On a side note, the real ark was 1 1/2 football fields long and 1 1/2 semi-truck trailers wide–plenty of room to fit young, not yet fully grown animals from every species.
The ark was needed to save the human race and animal kingdom from destruction. God sent a flood to cover the whole earth, to wipe out every living thing, except for those in the ark: Noah, his family, and pairs of each animal.
The great flood was actually an act of mercy as well as judgment.
The sons and daughters of Adam and eve–the people that lived at this time got so evil, that all their thoughts were only evil all the time. Think of skid row or the darkest corners of prison cells when no guards are watching and imagine this is what happened all over the place. God was grieved by all this sin–people forgetting Him, and hurting and destroying each other, and so judgment and cleansing came. He started things over again, fresh and brand new with the survivors in the ark.
However, the focal point of this panel is the two tablets of stone, coming towards you, with the Mount Sinai in the background. This may call to mind the famous “The Ten Commandments” movie with Charlson Heston. God gave Moses the law–his perfect rules and commandments to live by–to pass on to his chosen people, the nation of Israel.
Several years later, the descendants of Noah still missed the mark, and the world was full of sin as it was before. God promised He would never again wipe out the world with a flood, and instead chose Abraham and his children–the nation of Israel–to be a special group of people that would learn His ways and follow Him. They did okay at first, but eventually they lived sinful lives like their predecessors.
These commandments are not just for Israel by the way–they are for all of us. They prescribe His perfect way of living. A way where we will love God, show respect to Him as we ought to above all other things, and also love our fellow man sincerely. The law of God is good.
There is just one problem.
No one has ever been able to obey all the commandments. If you have ever lied–even once, you’ve sinned. You’ve blown it. If you have ever stolen anything, regardless of the value, you are a thief. If you have ever wanted something that belongs to another person, you missed the mark, and have been covetous. You are a lawbreaker, and so am I.
The law has one purpose, really: to show us that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
You must be perfect to get to heaven. That’s where God is, and He is perfect. You can’t have a glass of pure water with one drop of cyanide and call it fit to drink. My friend Dave, the one who created this mural with me, works at a baby formula manufacturer. In some departments, the environment is locked down and has to be so clean that everyone must wear protective suits to ensure the batches of formula don’t get infected by a foreign object, even dust from the outside.
In the same way, one speck of sin would contaminate heaven. The Bible says that God’s eyes are “too pure too look upon evil.” In other words, our sin and rebellion just can’t be tolerated in His holy presence. Heaven is clean and must stay clean to be heaven.
You don’t have to be as bad as Hitler to be thrown into hell. (In fact, as bad as Hitler was–with every single murder he committed in the most heinous ways possible, he could have been forgiven through the Savior God provided.) All of us have sinned. All of us deserve the death sentence for our crimes. “The wages of sin is death.” God, in His mercy, has restrained us through governments, laws, and a prosperous country to keep us from being as evil as we could be, if given the chance to do everything we want to do.
None of us, even on our best day, can hope to make it to heaven based on our good deeds.
God says all of our righteous deeds, when they are done to earn acceptance with Him, are like filthy rags. I’m a tall guy, but there’s no way I can jump and touch a 12 foot tall ceiling. Likewise, heaven is out of reach for me by my own efforts.
The good news is, God made a way for us to be restored to Him. He made a way for us to be perfect in His sight, and to live with Him in happiness forever! I’ll share more about that, and the other panels of this mural, in the next post. In the meantime, now is the perfect time as we head into Palm Sunday and the week before Easter, to think about our problem of sin, and how God, in His love, has provided the remedy!
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"I have inscribed you on the palm of my hands."
"Inscribed," Pencil on Paper, by Matt Philleo
One day, when I was discouraged I read a verse in the Bible, in Isaiah, 49:15-16, where it says, "Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palm of my hands." This verse brought such encouragement, that I created this original work of art to share the incredible love of God with others, including you!
Get a free 8 x 10 copy of this drawing that you can use to print, share, or as wallpaper!