Luke 19 — Zacchaeus and Jesus

Dollars and Sense (2009) (15″ x 15″ x 2″)

The piece above is a mixed media (paper collage, wax, plaster, acrylics and plastic containers) assemblage prepared from two antique wooden change counters. The text inspiring this work comes from Luke 19:1-27, which contains both the story of the tax collector Zacchaeus’ conversion and Jesus’ parable of the ten minas, or pounds.  Proper use of material wealth appears to be the major theme here. However, preachers are fond of reminding us that our stewardship under God really consists of wise use of our “time, talents and treasures” for God’s glory.

The Light of the World

The Light of the World (2011) (12″ x 12″)
paper collage and wooden dowels on canvas

“Let that same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death–even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11)
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were created through him, and not one thing was created without him. What was created in him was life, and the life was the light of all the world. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5)

Noah and the Ark

Deluge Refuge (2008) (11 1/2″ x 8 1/2″ x 3″)

Found objects often suggest appropriate themes. In this case, it was a wooden shoe mold with SAFETY stenciled on the side that was the inspiration for this assemblage illustrating various chapters in the story of Noah and the Ark, found in Genesis 6-9. The key in the top of the “ark” is a reminder of God’s personal touch in closing the door behind Noah, his family, and his menagerie (see Genesis 7:16).

Holy Ground

Twice in the Bible, major characters are told to take off their shoes since they are standing on holy ground. One such occasion is found in Exodus 3 where Moses encounters God in a burning bush. The other time is when Joshua is preparing to take Jericho and he is met by a man with a sword (Joshua 5:13-15). When he asks the mysterious stranger if he is “for us or against us,” the man replies, “No, I am commander of the army of Yahweh.”  We should remember this story every time we are tempted to say, “The Lord is on our side.”

Holy Ground (2008) (11 1/2″ x 10 3/8″ x 1 3/4″)
diptych: paper collage and modified shoe mold in wooden box
I had always thought the reason Moses and Joshua were told to take off their shoes was as a sign of respect to God. One commentator suggested another reason that seems to make sense to me–by taking off their shoes they could come into more direct contact with God’s presence. Something to think about.

Miracles in John’s Gospel

Saving the Best for Last (Luke 2:1-11)

This first recorded miracle of Jesus at the marriage in Cana certainly dispels any characterization of him as a puritanical killjoy.  C.S. Lewis in his book Miracles points to this event as an example of Jesus’ miracles exhibiting the same modus operandi as God does in the process of nature transforming water into grape juice into wine, but carried out in an accelerated manner.
Troubling the Water (John 5:1-9)
Jesus healed a man who had been trying for a long time to get well by following a superstition involving a pool with five porticoes near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem. Archeologists have found the remains of a pool with that description in that location with a 2nd Century AD healing sanctuary.
Every Little Bit Helps (Luke 6:1-14)

Jesus’ feeding of the multitudes is one of the hardest miracles for modern man to believe; however, it is his best attested miracle, being the only one found in all four Gospel accounts. The multiplication of the bread and fishes is another example of Jesus doing what occurs in nature, but in a much shorter time scale.
Malchus (John 18:1-11)
During Jesus’ arrest, Peter cuts off the ear of the high priest’s slave, named Malchus. Only John’s account gives the participants’ names, and Luke’s parallel account adds the fact that Jesus subsequently healed the slave.  You may recognize the artist behind the door decoration in the picture above, a not-so-subtle reminder of another famous person whose ear was severed.
Thornton Wilder has written a wonderful playlet entitled Now the Servant’s Name was Malchus in which Malchus is in heaven complaining to “Our Lord” that every time someone reads the account of the arrest he feels ridiculous. He therefore asks that he be erased from the biblical account. Jesus replies that many people reading the account feel that he himself is ridiculous since his promises were so vast yet he died like any other man. He concludes, “Malchus, will you stay and be ridiculous with me?”

Miracles in Luke’s Gospel

Gennesaret (Luke 5:1-11)

In an early encounter of Peter, James and John with Jesus, he demonstrates his miraculous ability to aid them in their own profession of fishermen. There is the famous pronouncement of Jesus at the end of the story that he will make them “fishers of men.”
”Which is Easier to Say?” (Luke 5:17-26)
After a paralytic is lowered through the roof of a building by his friends so that Jesus can heal him, the observing crowd says with some understatement, “We have seen strange things today.” But strangest of all is Jesus’ claim to forgive the man’s sins–soomething that only God can do.
Raised in Nain (Luke 7:11-17)
We tend to think that only Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus and often forget this story in Luke where a widow’s son is resuscitated. This is, of course, only a foreshadowing of Jesus’ own resurrection.
From the Lesser to the Greater (Luke 14:1-6)
In this passage of Scripture, Jesus uses the rabbinical method of reasoning called “arguing from the lesser to the greater.”  When they question his wisdom in healing a man from dropsy on the Sabbath, he points out that any of them would pull an ox out of a well on the Sabbath and, presumedly, a human being is of more importance in God’s sight than any animal.

Miracles in Mark’s Gospel

“Peace, Be Still” (Mark 4:35-41)

There is an interesting parallel between this account of Jesus’ stilling of the waters and Jonah 1. In both cases a sleeping prophet in a ship in a storm is awakened by frightened sailors who ask him to still the water, which he does.
Decapolis News (Mark 5:1-20)

There is a repeated motif in Mark’s Gospel in which Jesus’ warns those who witness his miracles not to spread the news. This is usually explained as (a) Jesus not wanting people to follow him for the wrong reasons or (b) his concern that too early a revelation of his divine nature would arouse opposition from the Jewish religious authorities before Jesus had accomplished all that he came to do.  Interestingly, this “Markan Secret” is reversed in the story of demoniac’s healing–the man is told to spread the news, perhaps because the miracle took place in mainly Gentile territory (note the raising of pigs by those in the area).
Downcast (Mark 11:12-24)
Another term used to describe a literary technique often employed by Mark is a “Markan sandwich.”  Basically, it consists of telling half of a story, interruption with another story, and then a resumption of the original story. Both stories are usually related to one another thematically. The account pictured above is one such example, containing the accounts of Jesus cursing the unproductive fig tree (representing Jewish traditions) and overturning the tables of the temple money changers.

Miracles in Matthew’s Gospel

The next few posts will feature a series of 9″ x 12″ paper collages I created in 2009 based on the stories of Jesus’ miracles found in the Four Gospels.

While They Watched (Matthew 12:9-14)

The story of Jesus healing a man’s withered hand in the synagogue on the sabbath forms a critical point in Matthew’s Gospel. It was because of this event that the Pharisees started the chain of events that would lead to the cross. R. T. France, in his excellent commentary on Matthew, explains their anger in the fact that Jesus had publically challenged their ability to speak authoritatively on such an important subject as the sabbath.

Stepping Out (Matthew 14:24-33)
The picture shows Peter’s abortive attempt to emulate Jesus’ miracle of walking on the water. We will never be able to follow fully in Jesus’ footsteps, but that should be no reason give up on the attempt.
Crumbs (Matthew 15:21-28)
When a Canaanite woman asks Jesus to heal her daughter of an evil spirit, he says, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs” referring to his earthly ministry being primarily to the Jews rather than the Gentiles. She replies, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”  At that point he rewards her for her faith and persistence by healing the daughter.  This passage seems to portray Jesus as a rather cold-hearted character unless one reads it as it was probably acted out–a dialogue of playful banter between the two parties.
Clarias Macracanthus (Matthew 17:24-27)
In this story, Peter is instructed by Jesus to go fishing. He catches a fish with a coin in its mouth that can be used to pay the temple tax. This is one of two stories in Matthew involving the responsibility Christians have to obey the civil authorities–the other is the more famous story ending in Jesus’ proclamation: “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” The proper respect owed to our governmental leaders continues to be a debated issue today.

Four Seasons

Some of the first collages I did were a set of four simple, unmounted pieces with the overall title “Seesons” (spelling intentional) illustrating the idea that God’s omniscience is active throughout the year. I wasn’t particularly pleased with the results so I later incorporated them into the separate assemblages shown below.

Spring (2002) (12″ x 2 3/4″ x 4 3/8″)
tinted collage, oil and wax on wooden packing box

Autumn (2002) (12 1/2″ x 12 1/2″)
collage and oil on printer’s type case

 Winter: Side 1 (2002) (6 3/4″ x 5″ x 9 1/2″h)

collage on slate blackboard and ship foundry mold

Winter: Side 2

Summer (2003) (7 1/2″ x 15″)
collage and oil in printer’s type case

Give-Aways

As is the usual practice, I have been asked on several occasions to produce and donate small works of art to be used in silent auctions or to be given away at art receptions. The challenge to a collage artist is to make a statement using only a few pieces of paper, instead of the sometimes hundreds of individual images that go into a larger piece. Below are a few examples of 4″ x 6″ give-aways mounted on plywood and created for a 2011 show.

Vessels of the Lord
I Kings 7:48-50 describes the gold vessels that were made to furnish the Solomon’s Temple.  These vessels figure prominently later on in the Book of Daniel. Daniel 1:2 recounts how King Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judah and brought these vessels to “the treasury of his gods.” That is not the end of their story, however, since these same vessels reappear in Daniel 5 where they are used by King Belshazzar as part of a feast celebrating the Babylonian gods. As a result, he receives the “handwriting on the wall” and is killed that very night.
Give Thanks
”So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” (I Corinthians 10:31)
Shaken Not Stirred
The allusion is not just to James Bond but also to Amos 9:9–”For lo, I will command, and shake the house of Israel among all the nations as one shakes with a sieve, but no pebble shall fall to the ground.”
Mansion or Menagerie?
This is my favorite image in this group. Isaiah 13:19-22 foretells the future devastation of the grand city of Babylon, which will become the habitation of wild animals and demons.