While skimming the news online today an article caught my eye. It appears that someone was unfolding a drop cloth and saw what they believed to be the image of Jesus on it. I’ll confess that I didn’t read the story or watch the video clip. Just seeing the connection of a drop cloth and Jesus was all that I needed to know. (In case you don’t know what a drop cloth is, it is a large sheet or tarp that you use to cover furniture or the floor when you are painting or making some other kind of big mess.) The picture above is of the Shroud of Turin, which for all practical and theological purposes is about the same as the Drop Cloth Jesus. I recall once hearing that someone saw the image of Jesus in a grilled cheese sandwich. Here is a link for the news story on the drop cloth, and also link to the sandwich.
The problem that I have with things like the Shroud and the Drop Cloth are that at the very best they are icons, images that point to the mystery of God and nothing more. In some faith traditions they are prayed to, or perhaps through. I confess, again, that I don’t know much about the theology underlying icons. And at their worst, like all things that we wrongly pursue, they end up drawing us away from God.
Icons may indeed point to the mystery of God, but they are a poor substitute for something of infinitely greater value, something that points not merely to the mystery of God but is the very means by which God fully reveals Himself to us: His word as written in the Bible.
If a real “picture” of Jesus were to be found we could be satisfied in our desire to know what He looked like as He walked through the ancient Middle East. But seeing a picture of Him doesn’t compare in the least to what we already know of Him in the Bible. From reading the Revelation of John I can be certain of two things about Jesus. One is that I will indeed see Him one day, and the other is that His image will be glorious in ways that right now I can barely begin to understand. A glory that is not conveyed well through a drop cloth, a shroud or a sandwich.
So rather than pondering the Drop Cloth Jesus, or any other icons and images, I want to give you something else to read and ponder as Holy Week begins.
Here is a link to a collection of readings for Holy Week from the Desiring God web site, something I also stumbled across this morning. There is a reading for each day, from Palm Sunday through Easter. This is just one of many good resources available to help us to feast on God’s word as we approach and remember the pivotal moment of human history, the death and resurrection of Jesus.
“Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” I John 3:2
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.