Day 3 – Redemption Amid the Wreckage: Reflection, Questions, and Art During Advent

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About the Art: Tintoretto, The Temptation of Adam, c. 1552, Oil on canvas, 150 x 220 cm, Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice, Italy. Click here to see the full painting.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) was an Italian painter who worked in a style of painting known as Chiaroscuro—the contrast of darkness and light to narrate a canvas for the viewer. Caravaggio pioneered a new style by making his contrasts much more exaggerated and intense. This amplified style became known as Tenebrism. Tenebrism often uses a spotlight effect to create drama. In this painting you see the spotlight on Eve’s front and Adam’s back.

Art historians suggest Caravaggio was showing off a bit with this painting by showing not only his mastery of painting the male form, which he renders as muscular and defined, but also of the female form, which he presents as soft and graceful. The two figures required two entirely different approaches. He presents a man and a woman who are of the same flesh, but distinct.

In terms of Caravaggio’s narrative in this painting, a close look shows the serpent holding the fruit with the woman as she offers it to her husband. This infers that Eve and the serpent are already intertwined. In this scene, Eve has fallen but Adam has not yet, illustrated by the fact that her nakedness is covered but his is not. Eve’s eyes are fixated on the serpent and the fruit, not the man, conveying a distance that already exists between them.

 

Consider

“There in the garden, the serpent spoke a sentence, subtle and slow, creating a slippery slope of uncertainty and suspicion: ‘You will not surely die. God knows when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like him, knowing good and evil.’

“With that, he planted a question the woman had never before considered: Is God really being as good as he can be? The woman stretched out her hand, took the fruit, and saw that it looked good to eat. So she raised it to her lips, opened her mouth, and took a bite. And her husband who was there with her did the same.

“The moment they broke the skin of the fruit, all of creation groaned. Lust, shame, fear, guilt, mistrust, blame- shifting, and loneliness rushed into their hearts. As if waking up from a blissful dream, they saw for the first time that they were naked. It was humiliating, so they made coverings for themselves out of fig leaves. For the first time in their lives, they questioned whether being exposed to each other—and to God—was safe. There they stood: covered, ashamed, and awakened to sin.

“Was hope lost forever? The first lovers believed the first lie and awoke to the first ugly moment of shame. They were wrecked. Was there any hope of redemption amidst their wreckage?”[1]

 

Examine

The effects of sin in our lives go far beyond the wrong things we do and the problems those wrong actions cause. Sin is first and foremost a relational problem. We were made for a right relationship with the one who made us. Make a list of what was broken by our first parent’s sin in the garden of Eden.

List areas in your life affected by relational brokenness. What parts of that brokenness were caused by you, what parts were caused by others?

Do you think of yourself as someone who owns your own culpability in broken relationships honestly? Where do you think you might deal more graciously with yourself than you do with others?

What are some areas of brokenness in your own life that make you particularly aware that you need help or rescue if your want your life to be healthy.

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[1] Ramsey, Russ. Behold the Lamb of God: An Advent Narrative. Nashville: Rabbit Room Press, 2011. pgs. 15-16.

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Russ Ramsey
Russ Ramsey and his wife and four children make their home in Nashville, Tennessee. He is a pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church and the author of Struck: One Christian's Reflections on Encountering Death (IVP, 2017), Behold the Lamb of God: An Advent Narrative (Rabbit Room Press, 2011) and Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ (Crossway, 2015). He is a graduate of Taylor University (1991) and Covenant Theological Seminary (MDiv – 2000, ThM – 2003). Follow Russ on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram.

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