In 2016 we created a series of images that help us walk through the incredible story of the Gospel of Jesus and remind us that it is, after all, our story as well.
1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
6 And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. 8 And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day. 9 And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so.
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Gen 1:1-9, 26-31).
Theology Notes: The Gospel starts where the Bible starts, at the Creation of all things. The overwhelming theme of the Creation story that is found in Genesis 1 (and other parts of the Bible!) is the goodness of the entire created order, or the cosmos. A good and perfect God created a good and perfect world, according to his pleasure and glory. Creation is Good, independent of human presence or our ability to observe it; it was good simply because God made it that way. The story of the Gospel is “front-loaded”, in the sense that our view of creation frames the way we view the entire history of the world, and subsequently the role of humanity in it. What the Creation story shows us is that we are not here by accident, we are supposed to be here in this world- it is out home. A vibrant theology of Creation is the crucial starting place when talking about the Gospel, because it is the backdrop for the unfolding of the entire story and it reminds us of our place and role in the story. Creation calls us to care for this earth, our home, and to remember that it was created good. It reminds us of our unique role in Creation and takes seriously our call to have dominion over the earth, and to be fruitful and to multiply.
Artist Notes: In this panel the tree symbolizes the fullness of life, it’s lush branches providing shade and shelter to creation. The flower icon in the center points to both the goodness of creation and our call to cultivate it.
1Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. 8And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” … 22 the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. (Gen 3: 1-11, 22-23)
Theology Notes: This panel sits in stark contrast to the one before it. The easiest way to describe this panel is “not the way it was supposed to be.” Whereas the world was created to be full of life, love, and goodness, this panel depicts sin, death, brokenness, darkness-all that is wrong in the world. In short, it depicts the sin that entered the world because of the disobedience of the jewel of Creation itself- humanity. Sin is the misappropriation of the good of creation and as a result, every part of creation is effected. Sin is an alien intruder, a parasite. It is easy to think of sin as an isolated event, something that happened one time in Adam’s eating of the forbidden fruit. However, this panel shows that it is never an individual, private matter and that Adam’s sin has a catastrophic effect on the entire created order. We can take hope, however, because the echoes of the first panel are still found in this one. Our rebellion never completely negated the goodness found in the first panel. This panel is important because it reminds us that we are rebellious, broken, and sinful people that need a savior. It reminds us of our personal agency in bringing the curse into the world and that its effects of death, disease, sin, and brokenness are each, in part, our responsibility. Finally, this panel is important in creating longing in us- a longing for this world, that we were created for, to be set right again.
Artist Notes: In this panel, we see sin entropy the perfect goodness of creation. Fear and shame come into existence and we see this pictured as the birds scatter from the tree. The drama of this devastating twist in the story is felt as color is drained from the image and the branches become bare. It is a stark and bleak panel, but it is not the end of the story. God is not content to allow his world to decay. He will make things right again.
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way;and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. (Isaiah 53:2-7)
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossions 1:15-20)
Theology Notes: The third panel shows us the first fruits of the created order being restored toward what it was meant to be. It conveys that a penalty for sin had to be paid for an undeserving world to be set back to its original intention- and it is only through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that this could happen. This panel shows grace- unmerited relationship and unmerited favor- and it’s power to change creation back to the way it was intended to be. Grace restores and renews creation, and it restores us, as human beings, into the image of God. It stems the tide of death, evil and sin and replaces it with the goodness, love, and power of the Creator himself. Sin is the disease that we caused, loved and brought into this world, and redemption in Christ is the cure of that disease. If sin is cosmic in scope, touching all of creation, so is grace just as cosmic- Jesus came to make his blessings flow, as far as the curse as found. At the same time, this panel conveys a sense of the “not and not yet”. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Kingdom of God has come, but not in full. The tide of evil and sin has been stemmed, but its presence and influence is still felt. The restoration of all things is happening but is not complete. This panel gives us hope because it reminds us that though we are broken and sinful, God himself became man and died for us, that we may have eternal life with Him. It reminds us that the sin and evil we see in the world is not the end of the story and it creates a longing in us for the completion of the restoration project that Christ began and will someday complete.
Artist Notes: In this panel we see a movement like the changing of seasons from winter to spring. It doesn’t come all at once, though. From left to right we see an arrival of a “new day”, and signposts pointing to a total restoration. The central icon is a lamb, reminding us that at the heart of Redemption is the willing and atoning sacrifice of Christ for sin, an act that provided the means for Restoration.
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,[b] and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
Theology Notes: This panel symbolizes what the world will be like when Jesus returns- a complete restoration of all things. Christ redeems, renews and restores the same humanity, same world, same heaven, and the same earth that has been corrupted and polluted by sin. God’s redemption work in Christ doesn’t destroy us, but rather humanizes us to what we were always created to be … but more. The restoration of all things is not only a renewal of the created order, but also a moving forward to even more than what the world was created for originally. It conveys a movement from the garden to the City and it reminds us that Jesus will return one day and finish the work started on the Cross. The in-breaking Kingdom that was inaugurated will be brought to complete flourishing in the New Heavens and the New Earth. The goal of redemption will be accomplished: the recreation of the cosmos into the Kingdom of God. In this Kingdom there will be no more tears, mourning, death, or sin. There will be perfect harmony between the Creator and the creation and between the Father and his children. The promise of the rainbow, to not destroy the world but to restore it, as seen in Genesis, will come to fruition. It creates purpose for our work now as we partner with Him in his work as he builds the Kingdom now here on Earth. It reminds us of the eternal ramifications of everything that we do, big and small, ordinary and extraordinary, as we long for his Kingdom to be fully consummated when Jesus returns.
Artist Notes: The Bible begins in a garden, but ends in a city. In this panel we see the beauty of creation completely restored and made even more vibrant and full of life. The birds return to find refuge in the tree (see Matt 13:31-32), which is now filled with leaves of many colors, representing the great multitude of all nations that will be gathered around the throne (Rev 7:9). The rainbow reminds us that God is faithful to his covenant promises, since it first appears after the flood (Genesis 9:14-15) as a promise not to destroy, but to renew, and then as part of the incredible throne-room scene in Revelation 4. Finally, we have the golden throne, reminding us that Jesus conquered sin and death and is seated as King of all creation!
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