Visiting the Fitzwilliam Art Gallery in Cambridge recently, I was intrigued by a painting by Dutch artist Hendrick van Anthonissen, thought to be painted around 1641. The painting had been gifted to the gallery in 1873.
For over a hundred and forty years it showed an ‘uninspiring’ beach scene with crowds of people on the beach and some on the cliffs, apparently looking at the sea. Although these people appeared to be looking at something, there was nothing there.
In 2014, restoration was taking place on the painting and something was found to have been painted over two centuries ago. Upon further investigation of an apparently crudely painted area of the sea, by analysis of the paints and painstaking work to remove the previously ‘unnoticed’ layer of overpaint, a man appeared to be standing on an enormous beached whale. It was understandable now that the crowd was looking at this spectacle.
I looked at the restored painting and compared it with the photograph taken pre-restoration and read about the conservation work, the analysis and removal of the deceiving overpaint and the experts’ considerations of why and when the alteration was done.
The whale gives purpose for the crowd’s gaze and the very reason for them being there on the beach. One thought about why it had been overpainted was that the presence of the dead creature was considered offensive.
As I’ve thought about this since, the Lord showed me that this is typical of the way of the world today. His Son, our Saviour Jesus, has been removed from so much of our lives, culture and even our history. As we contemplate Easter, and how it fits within popular culture today, we see nothing of our Lord willingly going to the cross as the pure sacrifice for our sinful ways.
The message of Jesus is increasingly deemed to be offensive. The truth of His death and resurrection has been ‘overpainted’ with a feast of chocolate eggs, bunnies, fun, games and nonsense. Meanwhile, people all over the world are looking for purpose, for reason and for truth.
Sadly, we can find it increasingly difficult to see past this stuff poured out by the mega retail and media empires that surround us. I believe we’re at risk of being suffocated by sweet, cuddly deception, so we spend less and less of our time, energy and thought on what our Lord and Saviour did for us and more on temporary moments of fun.
We can make a difference for ourselves, our spouse, our family, our friends and in the spiritual realms, if we turn away from the crudely ‘overpainted’ deceptions of the world and spend some quality time with our Heavenly Father, looking with Him at the true Easter.
Prayer: Father, forgive me for when I’ve spent my time chasing after the short-lived pleasures of this world and have forsaken time with You. Help me, Father, to seek and be fulfilled with the real joy that can only come through understanding my salvation in You. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
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