I’m often asked what inspires my paintings. Personally, I don’t have a singular muse or source of inspiration. I gather ideas from nature, books, films, conversations with people but most of the time I am stirred by Scripture. After inspiration strikes, it is followed by conceptualization, usually in the form of multiple rough sketches. This helps me to develop my original thought into an artwork.
With A Man of Sorrows, I started by drawing a ram in a thicket. As I drew the thicket, it reminded me of the twisted crown of thorns put upon Yeshua’s head by the Roman soldiers. In my mind’s eye, the thorns took on the form of the vicious barbed wire stretched across the concentration camps of Nazi Germany.
So, why a ram? Genesis 22 tells the story of when God called Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, on Mount Moriah. So, Abraham began one of the greatest acts of obedience in recorded history. At the top of the mountain, Abraham builds an altar, binds Isaac to it and lifts his hand to strike his son. As he is about to plunge the knife into his beloved child, the Angel of the Lord calls to Abraham and tells him to stop. Abraham finds a ram caught in a thicket, and sacrifices it in exchange for Isaac.
This is a picture of how Yeshua took our place, when He died on the cross for our sins. He took the ultimate sacrifice, so that we did not have to. However, whereas God stopped Abraham from sacrificing his son, God did not spare His own Son, who willingly gave up His life, that we might have eternal life in heaven, and freedom from our sin on earth.
Amazingly, about 700 years before Yeshua was born, the Jewish prophet Isaiah prophesied that “a Man of Sorrows” would come and carry the burden of the world’s transgressions. The whole of Isaiah chapter 53 is significant but for the sake of brevity, I will mention only verses 3 to 6: “He is despised and rejected by men, A MAN OF SORROWS and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. 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.”
You might ask why God requires such a sacrifice in the first place. Throughout all of Scripture, two of God’s eternal characteristics are revealed – His deep love for mankind and His perfect holiness.
His holiness demands justice for wrongdoing, which we are all guilty of, however His love longs to shield us from His judgement. Therefore, as a God of both perfect justice and perfect love, He sent His Son to bear the repercussions of our failures. Our only requirement is to accept the free gift of salvation offered to us, recognizing our imperfection.
However, not only did Yeshua die for the sins of the world, but He identified with the overwhelming sorrow of mankind. When He was on earth in the form of a man, He experienced the pain and heartache of mankind.
In Psalm 56:8 we read that: “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in Your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book.”
God cares about our pain deeply and intimately - hence the ram caught in the barbed wire of a concentration camp.
A Man of Sorrows attempts to simultaneously encompass Yeshua’s sacrifice on the cross, His deep sorrow at human suffering (in particular the events of the Holocaust), as well as imagery of the story of Abraham and Isaac.