George Seurat spent over two years, painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grand Jette.” It is nearly 7 by 10 feet and occupies an entire wall in the Art Institute of Chicago. The painting depicts a lovely landscape with lakeside visitors, including people in 1896 garb, complete with dogs and even a pet monkey in front of a lady in the foreground.
Standing at the entrance to the hall where the painting is hung, you can feel a part of the lovely, sunny afternoon in Paris.
[Copy of picture obtained from Wikimedia: By Georges Seurat – twGyqq52R-lYpA at Google Cultural Institute maximum zoom level, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22319969%5D
But stand closer and all you see are yellow, red and blue dots, each carefully positioned to contribute to the painting as a whole. Seurat believed that this form of painting, called divisionism at the time but now known as pointillism, would make the colors more brilliant and powerful than standard brushstrokes. His painting teaches us a valuable lesson in perspective.
Sometimes, you have to back away from a situation to get the full picture.
Jesus understood this. For example, the people were crying “Hosanna” and “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord” while He was riding on the back of the donkey in what is called “His Triumphal Entry”.
And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
Jesus wept because of their unbelief and the coming judgment of which they were completely unaware. He wept because the very people proclaiming allegiance to the King would become the same people who would cry out demanding His crucifixion in just a few days. He wept because the people were clamoring for release from Roman bondage when their real need was release from the bondage of sin, but this need was not even on their radar screen.
He stood afar and looked at the entire scene unfolding before Him, and recognized that the people were clamoring after that which would do no good and that they were ignoring the relief that He could bring which would do eternal good.
But then there are times when you must get into the picture to see what is going on – you must get into the dirt and grime of the situation in order to assist those who are helpless by themselves.
Jesus understood this too. For example, at other times, He participated in the situation itself, getting close to those involved in the conflict. In John 8:3-11 we read of the following encounter:
The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst – they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
Jesus got into the mix with the scribes and Pharisees. What He wrote in the sand we don’t know, but it was possible that He was listing the sins of those who were the woman’s accusers. I can imagine that the accusers were so convicted when they saw that Jesus knew their sins and had listed them in the writing on the ground that they just wanted to get away from the situation. No longer were they intent on getting this woman for her sin. Rather, they all left the woman alone and unharmed with Jesus.
Then, when He addressed the woman, He, who could have condemned her because He was without sin, extended grace and mercy by letting her go with the command not to sin any more.
He stood close by the woman and saw the entire situation. Sometimes what you see depends on where you stand.
A famous Christmas song is entitled “Do you hear what I hear?”. Here it is as sung on the Nashville A Capella Album Christmas.
The first verse asks “Do you see what I see?”. When I hear that song I hear my Lord saying “Linda, do you see what I see? Do you see the hurting, the lost, the wanderer? Do you see the one needing assistance who I put in your path because she was too timid to ask for help? Do you see what I see? If so, how are you responding; what are you doing to do about it!”
May we seek our perspective from Him who provides help far surpassing our own limited abilities. Seek the Lord and lean on His wisdom rather than your own. Sometimes, you have to back away from a situation to get the full picture, and sometimes you have to get involved to see the real problem.
Either way, I pray that we will stand where Christ places us, and that we will have eyes that see that which He sees so that our hands can do that which He directs, through His power and for His glory alone.
Father, I pray that You will position me so that I see that which You want me to see. May I be close enough to feel the pain and to assist in relieving stress and discomfort, if that is what You call me to do. May I back up so I am far enough away from a situation so that I can see the whole picture, and then have an understanding about how to resolve or alleviate the difficulty, if that is what You call me to do. May I do all that You ask and may I do it to my very best ability, for Your glory and honor.