I have been very struck by this painting over the last few days. It hangs in the Farmhouse at Lox Lane Christian Centre near Shaftsbury.
My first reaction was “That’s something I could do with!” The warm embrace of Jesus; an ordinary person being gathered up into his arms; the sense of security it conveys; the moment of wonder it implies. Above all the simple, uncluttered love which flows out of this precious moment.
But then I thought again. When we are feeling down, hurt, angry or confused, there are times when we push others away rather than looking to them for comfort. There have been times in my life when I have done this with God. I kept God at arm’s length for some time after my wife’s accident 15 years ago. My sense of pain and bewilderment meant that the warmth of God’s embrace was the last thing I wanted. I wasn’t sure I trusted Him anymore and a hug or a kiss would not have made it all better.
Perhaps now, as I come to terms with cancer, I don’t want to be hugged by Christ, no matter how special that would seem to be. I am not a very touchy-feely kind of person at the best of times and, as I wrote in my last post, I am currently fighting depression as the intensity of treatment gives way to the limbo of watchful waiting.
But as I continued to look at the painting, I noticed more than simply the embrace. I saw his hands with the mark of the nails, still red and bloody. I saw the crown of thorns still there, biting into his head. This is a risen Christ that still bears the scars and the pain of his crucifixion – who still bears the marks of his own death.
This is a Jesus who understands pain, sorrow and confusion. This is the Jesus who cried out on the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is the Jesus who was “despised and rejected, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” and who “bore our suffering” as he hung there.
It is this Jesus who gathers us up into his loving embrace.
So perhaps my first reaction was right after all. I would like to feel the warm embrace of Christ afterall. It is not an embrace which ignores the downsides of life. It is not escapism into a world of fluffy clouds and impossible dreams. It is the down to earth embrace of the man of sorrows, whose love brings light into the darkest places of our lives and which can melt the hardest of hearts.
The very last words of the Bible are these,
“Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen”
Perhaps today I would add –
The embrace of the Lord Jesus be with us too. Amen