Today's Gospel in Art - The birds of the air have nests

  • Patrick van der Vorst

Arrival of the Horse King from Paradise Lost series, by Raqib Shaw 2011© Phillips London, 29 June 2015, lot 11

Arrival of the Horse King from Paradise Lost series, by Raqib Shaw 2011© Phillips London, 29 June 2015, lot 11

Gospel of 29th June 2020 - Matthew 8:18-22

When Jesus saw the great crowds all about him he gave orders to leave for the other side. One of the scribes then came up and said to him, 'Master, I will follow you wherever you go.' Jesus replied, 'Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.'

Another man, one of his disciples, said to him, 'Sir, let me go and bury my father first.' But Jesus replied, 'Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their dead.'

Reflection on the Painting

The artist we are looking at today, Raqib Shaw, grew up in Kashmir before moving to London. He creates opulent and fantastical visions with enamels on canvas which give his works jewel-like surfaces bursting with colour. His compositions often remind me of those of Hieronymus Bosch. His meticulous method of painting results in some startling results such as the painting here: look at the hundreds of tiny birds flying, the cherubs, the various animals in full action, the fruits and flowers… an epic, dramtic scene...

In our Gospel reading today, Jesus meets a rich young man. Knowing the young man's heart, Jesus realises that he didn't fully realise what the cost is of becoming a true disciple of Christ. Jesus uses the analogy of 'the birds of the air have nests' (of which hundreds are depicted in our painting). In their nests birds sit, sleep, lay and hatch their eggs, feed their young, teach them to fly, etc… Jesus makes the point that even wild animals can claim a home, but to follow Jesus is a permanent road trip… a permanent journey where one has to make the necessary sacrifices. Jesus was warning the young man about just one of the many difficulties that would come with following Him… The lack of response from the young man, or of any further information about him, suggests that he would not and did not ultimately follow Jesus…


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Tags: Christian Art Today, Patrick van der Vorst, Raqib Shaw

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