Tuesday, December 15, 2015

In the Picture: The people of Jerusalem

The Wise Men enter Jerusalem
William Brassey Hole

Read Isaiah 60.1-6
 Arise, shine; for your light has come,
   and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth,
   and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
   and his glory will appear over you.
Nations shall come to your light,
   and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Lift up your eyes and look around;
   they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from far away,
   and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms.
Then you shall see and be radiant;
   your heart shall thrill and rejoice,
because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you,
   the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
A multitude of camels shall cover you,
   the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
   all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
   and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.

William Brassey Hole was a well-known painter, illustrator and etcher in the late 19th and early 20th century. He was especially famous for historical and biblical scenes, and painted a sequence of illustrations for “The life of Jesus of Nazareth” a book which was a favourite of many early 20th century children.

The prophet Isaiah had looked forward to a time when all nations would come to Israel, bringing offerings of gold and frankincense, and riding camels. (There are no camels in Matthew’s account of this story, but we add them because of Isaiah’s prophecy.)
In this picture, of the Wise Men entering Jerusalem, William Hole shows the crowd looking on as three foreigners on their camels enter the city. All eyes are on them, and the Roman soldier looks as if he is expecting trouble. According to Matthew’s account, the people of Jerusalem, like Herod, were frightened by the arrival of the Magi (Matthew 2.3). They knew Isaiah’s words, and could tell that something was happening which would disturb the status quo. However much they wanted God to send a Messiah, perhaps they weren’t sure they wanted him to come right now, right here.

  • Have you ever resisted a change you knew you needed in your life because you didn’t want the disruption it would bring?
  • How do you think you’d feel if some foreigners showed up claiming to know more about your faith than you did?

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