“Come and See,” Acrylic and Crushed Tree Bark on Canvas, 30”x40”, 2019. The Greek and Hebrew text and translations are as follows: ἔρχου καὶ ἴδε (“Come and see” from John 11:34) and אַתָּ֖ה אֵ֣ל רֳאִ֑י (“You are the God who sees me” from Genesis 16:13).
I know Christmas is right around the corner, but I just wanted to take a moment to share my latest painting, which ties into Christmas if you keep reading. This wasn’t necessarily intentional, but I believe that God works everything out according to His perfect will and timing. This is the first painting I’ve completed since my studio residency started in early November, and the only large-scale piece I’ve completed since August. I had been playing with ideas for several months, but I had no concrete direction for my next piece, which began to weigh on me.
In October, after over a month of wrestling with ideas, I came across Genesis 16 in my daily reading, a passage that spoke to the uncertainty I was facing. It details the plight of Hagar, Sarah’s (Abraham’s wife) maidservant, who after being found pregnant by Abraham (at Sarah’s own scheming, for she was barren) and abused by Sarah, flees to a spring in the desert. There, the angel of the LORD finds her and comforts her in her uncertainty and distress. Hagar did not know how her pregnancy would work out or what would come of her situation, but the LORD told her to return to Sarah and promised that her descendants would be “too numerous to count” and that she would have a child named “Ishmael” (Meaning: “God hears”) because the LORD had heard of her misery (Genesis 16:11). After this personal encounter with the LORD, Hagar says of Him, “You are the God who sees me…I have now seen the One who sees me” (Genesis 16:13). The whole passage really struck me, and I recorded this reflection in my art journal on 10/24, “In the desert of life, You are the God who sees me. You search for me and pursue me, even in that dry place of uncertainty, when I don’t know what to do next.”
Two days later, my struggles with ideas suddenly became an afterthought as I shockingly learned that a close family friend had passed away earlier that afternoon. The news hit me very hard, especially after having attended a funeral earlier that day for someone else. This piece expresses my personal grief over my friend’s death, but it also affirms to those who mourn that their suffering is real and tangible and it needn’t be ignored or hidden. With this stark, confrontational gaze, I encourage viewers to “come and see,” and acknowledge the reality of suffering and death that confronts us all. The sting of death may not be something we want to talk about or think about on a daily basis, but we need to recognize that there are many around us who are facing it, and no one should have to go through that alone. Yes, the darkness is very real, but is that where it all ends?
For thousands of years, people had walked in the shadow of death. The darkness was real and piercing and all-consuming. Until one night, unbeknownst to the world, a newborn baby’s cries, so ordinary yet extraordinary, shattered the silence of centuries. In a lowly manger, pure Light pierced through the blackness of the night.
To find true comfort and healing for our souls, we must look outside of ourselves. To the perfect One who voluntarily left His place in heaven and humbled Himself to enter our broken and dark human existence, marred with the reality of sin, pain, and death. Here is where Christmas comes in.
“Come and see…” Who are these words really speaking to? Are they speaking to us? Or are they the words we speak to Another?
“When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled: ‘Where have you laid him?” He asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
When His friend Lazarus died, Jesus did not ignore the pain and suffering of His friends who suffered a very real, tangible loss. Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Jesus knew this. He also knew the work that God would soon do through Him when He would raise Lazarus from the dead. But in that moment, as He watched the people around Him weep at Lazarus’ death, He acknowledged the reality of it with a simple question, “Where have you laid him?” And as they invited Him into their pain with “Come and see, Lord,” Jesus not only came and saw, He did something utterly profound. He entered their suffering and felt the bitter reality of loss they felt, He tasted the sting of death and cried with them, though He held the power over death.
Two short words, yet they carry such weight, such hope. “Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows…” (Isaiah 53:4a). We are not alone. He is Emmanuel, “God with us.” In our joys and triumphs, but also in our suffering and pain. He who tasted death with the mourners in this moment, also tasted death for us when He, the perfect, righteous sacrifice, who faithfully obeyed every commandment of God that we could not, bore our sins on the cross and died in our place, suffering under the wrath of God. And so the passage continues, “yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed…He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people He was stricken…Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer, and though the LORD makes His life a guilt offering, He will see His offspring and prolong His days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in His hand. After the suffering of His soul, He will see the light of life and be satisfied; by His knowledge, my righteous servant will justify many and He will bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:4b-5;8b;10-11).
“Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy Him who holds the power of death–that is the devil–and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14-15). Here is another verse that has encouraged me during my sorrow, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2-3). Not only did Jesus suffer and die, He also rose again, thereby securing eternal victory over sin and death! This is the hope of Christmas!
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
“In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
In the midst of deepest sorrow, when I cry, “Come and see, Lord”, like Hagar, I can say, “You are the God who sees me.” While death still stings now, I know the One who feels my pain, weeps with me, and tasted death for me. The One who came “to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve” (Isaiah 61:2-3). He is my Living Hope (1 Peter 1:3).
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).