I often reflect on the Atonement Jesus made for us, and enjoy digging through articles, books and scriptures for more information about it. I really didn't know much about what had happened when He prayed in Gethsemane. I knew He had asked the eight Apostles to wait near the entrance, and took Peter, James and John further into the garden with Him. Admonishing them to watch and pray, He advanced a "stone's throw" beyond them, and knelt and prayed. In the record He prayed three times, twice returning to wake the Apostles, and asking them to pray with Him. The third time He told them to sleep on-until the traitor, Judas, arrived to betray Him.
I knew there must be more that happened, but how could I discover what it was? The records of Mathew, Mark, and Luke are second hand because Matthew never went beyond the entrance, and Mark and Luke had not yet been called as Apostles. John who did go into the garden, but says nothing at all about anything that happened until Judas arrived. I determined to dig in the scriptures for references, prophecies, or types that pointed to Gethsemane, and try to infer from them what happened.
I find that taking the scriptures literally gives me ideas to sketch and to paint that taking them metaphorically didn't even hint at. It became a process of finding new questions I wanted answers to. The following are some of the questions, and some of the answers I came up with.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"A Great Calm" 
26 inches by 54.5 inches, Oil on Panel
I tried to imagine the hectic efforts: rowing to  turn the boat into the wind,  scooping up buckets of water to bail out the water that filled it to the rails, and fighting the lines to pull down the sails that would have threatened to pull the bow under in a "great wind storm".  I think the crew members and disciples would have been so busy with their tasks that few of them would have seen Jesus command the wind and waves.  I tried to capture their surprise when suddenly-there was "A Great Calm".
 The ship is patterned after one displayed on Google that purportedly sunk at or near the time of Christ, and the shape of the landscape in the background is also from Google looking toward Capernaum.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Entering Gethsemane-Night of Terror

After the “Last Supper” observing the Passover in the upper room, Jesus felt heavy and led his Apostles to the Garden of Gethsemane over the bridge across the Kidron Valley to the east where He could be alone and pray.  The Passover is always celebrated at the full moon at the end of March and beginning of April, and the night was cold (see John 18:18).  Ancient manuscripts and stone foundations discovered at the bottom of several exploratory shafts dug in the mid nineteenth century offer evidence of a high narrow stone bridge crossing the Kidron Valley at the time of Christ.  At that time to even walk near a grave site was to be defiled and required ritual cleansing by the Priest.  Graves, both marked and unmarked, littered the bottom of the Valley.  The history of Jerusalem is a violent succession of conquerors for thousands of years.  Even when it stood as an independent state there was constant fighting and bloodshed.  The bottom of the Valley seemed to accumulate layers of the dead almost in proportion to the layers of broken stones and debris used by attacking armies to lay siege to the walls of Jerusalem. It would have been unthinkable to subject the olive oil and wine to be used in the Temple to such pollution!  So, according to the texts, a high, narrow stone bridge was built by the priests to provide a way to preserve the purity of the essential oils and wines as they were transported to the Temple.  This is the last of many of my own paintings featuring that bridge, and even this painting has been “updated” seven or eight times to more accurately depict discoveries my friends and I have made in the last few months. Special thanks to Dr. Vern Swanson of the Springville Museum of Art for his many contributions. I expect that there remain errors to be corrected in a subsequent work as more and more is learned about the time of the Atonement. 

Spirit's Release
 So many crucifixes show Jesus hanging gracefully from a cross, but the cross was the cruelest of tortures barbaric minds could conceive.  Many artists represent the Savior nailed to the cross while the two thieves are fastened with ropes.  In reality the rope was there not only to hold the victim onto the cross, but it compressed the chest forcing out all air whenever the burning pain in the thigh muscles became so great that the poor victim had to let himself down.  The legs were bent in a cramped position so that the only way to draw a breath was to strain upward upon the nail driven either through both feet one over the other, or through both heels with the legs turned viciously to the side.  The nails through the hands were bad enough, but it was feared the weight of a grown man might tear through the tendons and ligaments there so the torturers drove another nail through the wrists to support the weight. 
It just so happened that the great nerve that carries the sensations from the fingers passes through the wrist and so any pressure coming to bear upon that cruel spike caused a sensation similar to striking one’s “crazy bone” in the elbow only more pronounced and sustained.  The whole time the person “hung” upon the nails through his arms and hands he would be racked by the shocks to the nerves mentioned.  Writhing in agony induced by the pressure of the nails on his nerves, the poor victim would be struggling to breathe as the rope across his chest would have pushed all the air from his lungs.  His only hope of drawing a breath would be to push down, resting his entire weight upon the nails through his feet or heels, and strain upward with exhausted leg muscles screaming because of the cramped way they were positioned beneath him.
When they broke the legs of the two thieves so they wouldn’t hang on the crosses through the Sabbath, it wasn’t so much the shock of the broken bones they were counting on to kill the thieves, it was that they could no longer  raise themselves up to draw a breath, so they suffocated.
Usually victims of the cross hung there for four days before they died; ninety six hours of excruciating pain exacerbated by an ever growing thirst brought on by the loss of blood, continuously writhing up and down; torn between the searing pain in the legs, and the need to breathe.  Rest was impossible!
Short hours into the ordeal, birds would come to peck out the victim’s eyes, if family wasn’t there to drive them away.  Then came the flies laying eggs in the moist eye sockets, and nose, leaving the victims blind, barely able to breathe past a thirst swollen tongue, wracked with pain in every muscle and joint, to await the inevitable hours of madness that came on when the maggots burrowed into the brain from the eyes and nose just before the release of death.
That was the death they condemned our beloved Savior to suffer, and even that paled when compared to the agony he suffered in the Garden.    D&C 19:18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
Dawn of Hope

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Priest's Bridge: Centuries of warfare had left the bottom of the Kidron Valley yards deep with dead bodies, graves, and the rubble of countless sieges.  It was impossible to cross the valley floor without becoming defiled.  The wine and olive oil for the Temple was grown and pressed on the Mount of Olives and had to be transported to the Temple, so the Priests built a high, narrow, two tier, stone bridge across the valley so that the stone and arches would prevent the defilement from rising to the walkway at the top, and the wine and olive oil being carried across to the Temple.  It was also the path taken by the various "Red Heffers" (see Numbers: 19)sacrificed on the Mount of Olives. As the Messiah was to be the final Red Heffer offering, Jesus also led His 11 remaining Apostles over the Bridge to the Gate of the Garden of Gethsemane.  In the painting, I show them crossing the bridge beneath the glow of the full moon of the Passover.