Jesus’ Liberation

Art is a unique window into how humans view the world. Christian art is obviously no exception to this broader cultural truth. From the lines we sing in hymnbooks, to the ways in which we design stain glassed windows, we often articulate what we think about God in what we create. We’ve all experienced this phenomenon in one way or another. Perhaps a song about Jesus has filled you with indescribable joy–the words, melody, and rhythm somehow capture the love he has for us. Maybe you’ve been moved by a poem, painting, or performance.

As you consider what it means to believe in Jesus Christ this week from our sermon, I thought on the church blog that I would share an ancient and unique artistic depiction of him. Check out the following link…

There are various versions of this scene, which is called Anastasis (ancient Greek meaning “resurrection”). The one above is from a church in Venezia, Italy and is dated to the 1000s AD.

So if art can offer insight about the world, what might the Anastasis teach us about Jesus?

Here Jesus is depicted as conquering death through his resurrection. You may notice the scars on his hands and feet, signifying his actual suffering on the cross. Notice that Jesus has quite literally bound up Satan by tying him up on the ground. Satan is helpless on the floor, underneath Christ’s nail-pierced feet. You’ll notice a strange detail if you zoom in on this painting, which is that the floor has a bunch of broken locks and keys scattered about. Because Jesus rose from the dead and into new life, Jesus has “unlocked” the gates and boxes of hell, freeing people from Satan’s grasp and walking them by the hand to the other side. The people who had been “captured” by Satan extend their hands outward to allow Jesus to help them. The “rescued” on the right side show a hand gesture meaning blessing or an abbreviation of Christ’s name in ancient Greek.

Most other works and variations tend to have the same characteristics. Jesus has defeated and bound up Satan, and he is freeing people from death’s grasp and into new life. In all of them, Jesus is taking the hopeless by the hand and offering them salvation.

For me at least, this piece of art perfectly captures the incredible truth of who Jesus is. Jesus was compassionate, seeking to save the lost. Jesus truly suffered a horrendous death on the cross. And through the act of resurrection, Jesus conquered death and broke open the gates of hell that we might have abundant life.

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