Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Magi enter Jerusalem

Title: The Magi enter Jerusalem
Artist: William Hole
Medium: Printed book illustration
Size: 29 x 24 cm
Date: c.1905
Location: From “The Life of Jesus of Nazareth Portrayed in Colours.” London: Eyre & Spottiswoode.

Matthew 2:1-8: Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea. This happened while Herod was king of Judea. After Jesus' birth, Wise Men from the east came to Jerusalem. They asked, "Where is the child who has been born to be king of the Jews? When we were in the east, we saw his star. Now we have come to worship him." When King Herod heard about it, he was very upset. Everyone in Jerusalem was troubled too. So Herod called together all the chief priests of the people. He also called the teachers of the law. He asked them where the Christ was going to be born. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied. "This is what the prophet has written. He said, 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are certainly not the least important among the towns of Judah. A ruler will come out of you. He will be the shepherd of my people Israel.' " Then Herod called for the Wise Men secretly. He found out from them exactly when the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem. He said, "Go! Make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, bring me a report. Then I can go and worship him too."

The first story after Jesus' birth opens with Magi who have traveled a long distance to offer homage to a new king born in Judea. They enter Jerusalem with a large enough caravan to attract the city's attention; they must have assumed that they would find the newborn king in Herod's palace in Jerusalem. This passage reminds us that we must preach the gospel to all people because we cannot always predict who will hear the message and who will not. Those we least expect to honor Jesus may worship him, and those we least expect to oppose him may seek his death. This passage confronts Matthew's readers with a summons to personal decision by contrasting the main characters. The Magi worship Jesus; Herod seeks his death; Jerusalem's religious elite - forerunners of the opponents of Matthew's audience - take Jesus for granted. The reader must identify with the pagan Magi rather than with Herod or Jerusalem's religious elite.

William Hole (1846 – 1917) was the only child of Richard and Anne Hole, born in Salisbury in 1846. His father was a doctor, and the family soon relocated to Edinburgh where William received his education at the Edinburgh Academy. While traveling through Italy he befriended some artists in Rome who convinced him that he should pursue a career in art. Anyone who has visited the Holy Land, on seeing Hole's paintings, always comment that he has managed to capture the very atmosphere of the land. Both his use of light, and the colors used in his landscapes make Hole's Bible pictures truly memorable. It was no doubt his method of painting 'on the spot' that helped him to capture these essential ingredients in his pictures.

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