The Sense of Sight

I. Preparation and Introduction

Request that a classical piece be played live before the service – possibly piano & violin duet of “Lead Me To Calvary”. Make sure the verbal introduction to the piece mentions that the focus of communion message will be the Garden of Gethsemane.

As we approach the Lord’s Supper this week, let me quickly remind you that we are in the middle of a 4 week series titled, “The 5 Senses of the Cross”.

We are looking at the senses of hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste.

In the first week we discussed the sense of hearing, and we focused on the sounds of the Passion – the things you would have heard if you were there.

Next week we look at the sense of touch.

The final Sunday, we look at the senses smell and taste.

This week we look at how God uses the sense of sight to remind us of the depth of the Cross.

And who better to show us how to SEE the cross – than some of the most legendary artists of all time.

II. Scripture

Luke 22:39-47
Leaving there, he went, as he so often did, to Mount Olives. The disciples followed him. When they arrived at the place, he said, “Pray that you don’t give in to temptation.” He pulled away from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, “Father, remove this cup from me. But please, not what I want. What do you want?” At once an angel from heaven was at his side, strengthening him. He prayed on all the harder. Sweat, wrung from him like drops of blood, poured off his face.  He got up from prayer, went back to the disciples and found them asleep, drugged by grief. He said, “What business do you have sleeping? Get up. Pray so you won’t give in to temptation.”  No sooner were the words out of his mouth than a crowd showed up, Judas, the one from the Twelve, in the lead.

III. Gethsemane

Q. When you think of Jesus in Gethsemane, what emotions come to mind?

Peaceful?         Passive?        Quiet?            Serene?           Calm?

Q. Do you think of peace and serenity?

Q. Or do think of a soul in turmoil?

IV. Van Gogh’s “Olive Grove”

I was able to actually visit Gethsemane in 2000.   It was an amazing experience!

I feel like Van Gogh was truly able to capture the irony of Gethsemane’s Olive trees.

I will read Jeff Dugan’s account of why Van Gogh drew this.

When you visit a modern cemetery, it’s not uncommon to see there a popular statue of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He’s kneeling in prayer, and rests his elbows on the top of a large boulder. Most often the statue is pure white. The boulder is symbolic of the solidity of the God in whom Jesus places His faith. The calm, wistful expression on His face, His gently flowing robes, and the whiteness of the stone are all intended to calm and comfort the grieving visitor to the cemetery, and that’s certainly an appropriate goal for a sculpture in a graveyard.

But when a friend of Vincent van Gogh’s painted a similar picture of Jesus among the olive trees, van Gogh was enraged. In response, van Gogh painted a series of portraits of olive groves, but none of them contains a peaceful, confident Christ. In fact, there’s no Christ evident at all.

But that doesn’t mean He is not depicted here. Instead of focusing on a serene church icon that had, in his opinion, lost some relevance to real life experience, van Gogh points to the trees themselves. He emphasizes their twisted, gnarled trunks and branches and the stubby stripes of the grass. Absent the figure of Christ, we are left to see in the trees his writhing in unimaginable agony, and in the grass the torment of the lashes He would later endure. Precisely because van Gogh has removed the familiar image of Christ from the scene, we are better able to experience the profound anguish and emotional trauma that our Lord suffered…and ultimately overcame…on that night.

V. Van Gogh’s “Olive Grove with Orange Sky”

This is another of Van Gogh’s Olive Grove paintings

It perhaps expresses this agony even more vividly, with the sunlight sinking below the horizon, while the tormented trees writhe and the Garden fills with blood.

VI. Upward Call

As we take the bread, be reminded that Jesus’ body was NOT just flesh and blood, but all the hormones/adrenaline/emotions that you & I experience.

And as we take the wine, be reminded that Jesus was very deliberate about choosing a red drink to represent his red blood that flowed first in Gethsemane, second in the courts of Pilate, and third on the cross itself.

VII. Prayer


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