A man who had recently visited the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem came to me and described the personal feelings he had experienced while he was there. He said that as he stepped out of the darkness of the tomb and into the sunlight, he was overwhelmed as he though of Christ’s resurrection. He wanted me to recreate those feelings in a painting of the Savior stepping out of the tomb and into the early morning sun. He commissioned me to do this painting for him because he wanted Jesus to resemble te Red Robe painting (The Lord Jesus Christ), which was his favorite painting of the Savior.
I wanted this piece to be accurate and to capture the feelings he described to me, so I built a tomb door opening in my living room out of 2x4s to have a model step out of for the painting.
Many people have enjoyed this painting and some have commented to me that the placement of his hands is meaningful to them. One hand is behind Him, touching the opening of the tomb, and the other hand reaches forward. It is as if he is putting the tomb and death behind him and reaching ahead into eternity.
A couple years after I finished this painting, I was able to visit the tomb in Jerusalem. I thought about the man whose feelings for that place were so deep that he went to the effort to search me out and find me to paint it for him. I understood those feelings as I visited the tomb and felt what he had described for me. This was a sacred place, where one of the most significant events in all of history took place. I hope I have been able to capture that feeling with this painting.
The greatest message of hope is not found in the crucifixion but in the empty tomb. When Mary arrived on that first Easter morning she found the stone rolled away and two angels standing inside. One turned to her and said, “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen” - Luke 24:5-6
Like Mary, each of us will face the loss of a loved one. One does not live long without experiencing the sorrow that comes with death and the longing for a glorious reunion. The miracle of the empty tomb is not just that He rose, but that because He did we will too. Each of us will leave our own empty tombs and be reunited with those we love.
It is the promise and hope of our own glorious resurrections that we hear in those angelic words, “He… is risen.”
In the story of Lazarus, Martha tells the Lord he is too late and her brother has already died. Christ reassures her that her brother will rise again. She replies, "I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day." With perfect clarity he declares, "I am the resurrection." – John 11
For most of us the thought of death is far distant, but for those whose trials come through physical illness and disability the reminders of mortality are not easily ignored. For them, and for my son, I pray the Savior will come quickly and bring the promised resurrection and an end to their pain.
In the parable of the Ten Virgins the Lord compares His Second Coming to a wedding feast in which ten virgins are invited to wait for the arrival of the newly married couple. Knowing that the wait might stretch into the night each virgin brought a lamp, but only five brought extra oil.
When the wait for the bridegroom stretched longer than anticipated, the five foolish virgins ran out of oil and were forced to go to the market in search of more. While they were away the Savior came and went in with His guests to the feast. When they returned the door was shut and they called to the Lord to open. He said simply, "I know you not."
Can you imagine the moment when they realized that they would not be admitted. Some might express anger at having waited so long, it was His fault for not coming sooner. Others might have dismissed it as having never wanted in to begin with. I wanted to capture those who cry out recognizing the finality of those words, "I know you not."
Throughout His ministry the Savior spoke of His impending death, "Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things...concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be...mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: and they shall scourge him, and put him to death," and still His disciples "understood none of these things." - Luke 18: 31-34
How could they understand that He loved them enough to allow Himself be taken, scourged, and killed? How could they know that His death was for them? Yet with three simple words, "It is finished," the door to salvation was opened and His love was forever etched on the hearts of the believers.
When I began painting the life of Christ I promised myself that I would paint a portrait of the Savior each year. I wanted to see how my view of the Savior would change as I came to know Him better.
This was the first portrait. It gets its name from my two year old granddaughter. I came into my studio one morning to find her standing in front of the painting. She was carrying on a conversation and as I listened I could make out the word "Jesus."