There are so many great stories in the Text and we have been fortunate that many artists over the course of history have attempted to capture these special moments. We’ve been given The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, Creation of Adam by Michelangelo, Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst, Miracle of Bread and Fish by Giovanni Lanfranco and many others. The words used to tell these stories in the Text are powerful but add to that a visual of someone’s interpretation and it can add to our ability to get involved on a personal level. Sculptor Gregg Wyatt once said, “Art is not simply a pretty picture or something to glance at as you go by, but to be meditated upon. It is like a library of great truth.”
On of my favorite stories is that of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15 and we have been blessed with Rembrandt’s interpretation of the climax of the story in his painting entitled The Return of the Prodigal Son. Perhaps it’s a very familiar story for you but over the next few moments try to approach the story from a fresh place, as if you’re unfamiliar with the story.
Take a few moments to slowly read through the story. When you’re done take the same amount of time to look at the painting as you review the story in your mind leading up to the son’s return.
Now, continue to look at the painting while contemplating on these statements and questions:
– What grabs your attention? Where are your eyes automatically drawn?
– Henry Nouwen says this “is a story of returning…My life drifts away from God. I have to return. My heart moves away from my first love. I have to return. My mind wanders to strange images. I have to return. Returning is a lifelong struggle” (Nouwen 72). What part of you needs to return to your Heavenly Father? Life? Heart? Mind?
– The father asked nothing of the son before embracing him in his arms. Do you feel God is requiring something from you before you can return?
– We often relate to the son but now turn your eyes to the father. Who do you unconditionally welcome into your presence? Who do you place conditions on?
– Ultimately as followers of Jesus we are called to become more and more like our heavenly Father. This story paints the Father as one with no alarm for himself. Do we give to others expecting nothing to be returned? Does our love for those we come in contact with come with no conditions?
Nouwen, Henri. The Road To Daybreak. Doubleday Publishing. New York, NY. 1990.