Monday, September 22, 2014

Gospel Devotion: An Art Lesson - Matthew 14:11

Matthew 14:11         His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother.

            When I was growing up in Glasgow, Scotland, my Dad used to frequently take my siblings and I to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery in the heart of the city. It was always a fascinating place to visit and because my Dad was a great city historian, he used to tell us stories about the museum, as well as some interesting facts about that part of Glasgow.

            The museum is one of the most important art galleries in the world because it contains paintings by Rembrandt, Renoir, Picasso, Dali, Van Gogh, Monet, as well as many others by famous artists. When we visited the museum, it took a whole day to walk the hallways and corridors, sections and levels. If ever I get back to Scotland, it will be one of the first and foremost places that I’ll visit.

            One of the museum’s sections contained art by Italian painters from before, during, and after the Renaissance. One of paintings both startled and shocked me when I saw it for the first time. It was Dolci’s rendition of Salome carrying the bloodied head of John the Baptist on a silver platter. The woman in the painting is beautiful, but the macabre sight of John’s the Baptist’s decapitated head is horrendous. When I first saw it, I found myself both appalled and attracted to the painting at the same time. It was entirely a weird experience for such a young schoolboy.

            The Biblical account of this event (Matthew 14:1-12) reminds us of the evil that is in the world and which innocent people face in every generation. We only have to glance at the current news headlines to see this type of wicked inhumanity occurring in the Middle East and, unfortunately, across the globe. As Christians, we are meant to confront evil with God’s love, which is never easy to do, especially when people of our own faith are victims of oppression and persecution.

            So today’s message deals with the reality of evil on our planet, but also challenges us to use the divine vehicles of hope, faith, and love to change the world. It may not be easy, but it is Christ’s way.

Questions for personal reflection

How do I initially respond to reports of wickedness across the world? What am I doing with my faith to make my community a better place?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, following Your ways is often difficult, especially in the face of wickedness and violence, conflict and evil. Help us to rely upon You to fortify our spirits, so that we may become channels of Your mercy and instruments of Your peace. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment or ask a question about today’s message, please send him an email to

Today’s image is Dolci’s painting of Salome. You can read more details of the painting at the following link: Salome.

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