by Calven Celliers
The famous Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned to paint a mural on a monastery dining hall in Milan, Italy. The result was The Last Supper, one of the most recognized and beloved works of art in the world. It depicts Jesus sitting with His disciples at a table just after He told them that one of them would betray Him.
During the time da Vinci was working on the piece, he got into an argument with another famous Italian, Michelangelo. According to biographer Vasari these two had “an intense dislike for each other.” The two were jealous of each other’s work and often made disparaging comments about one another in public. Legend has it that when the time came for Leonardo to paint the face of Judas in The Last Supper, he got the sinister idea of using the face of his rival, Michelangelo, to be the face of the betrayer. He felt it was a great way to immortalize how he felt about his enemy.
But then came the last step in his grand artwork, painting the face of Jesus. As he tried to capture the image of Christ, he always felt somewhat dissatisfied. For the next few weeks, he apparently painted the face of Christ over and over again. He had Jesus’ body completed, but he couldn’t create the right face. In desperation Leonardo prayed that he could paint a face that would adequately express the love and compassion of Christ. “Lord, help me to see Your face,” he pleaded with God.
Finally, a voice spoke to his heart, saying, “You will never see the face of Jesus until you change the face of Judas.” Leonardo was convicted. He erased Michelangelo’s face and painted the image we see today. Only when Leonardo let go of his bitterness toward Michelangelo and removed the offense, could he clearly paint the image of Christ.
Some of us cannot see the face of Jesus clearly in our lives because we refuse to forgive others. We are so determined to pay people back that all we can see is what they have done wrong, and our vengeful hearts keep us from fully seeing Christ. Forgiveness is something we all need, but for a smorgasbord of reasons it is something many of us hesitate to give. Jesus makes it abundantly clear in the Gospel of Matthew, however, that we can’t have it without giving it.
“14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6: 14 & 15NIV)
Our sin separates us from God. As long as we harbour unforgiveness in our hearts, we will not see the face of Jesus, nor will we know the abundance of life that Jesus said He came to give us, because there will always be a part of us that will be dead in our sin!
As I gave this some more thought I think that what Jesus was referring to in this Scripture has everything to do with our daily fellowship with Him and not our eternal relationship with Him. When we sin, we experience the symptoms of spiritual death in our relationship with God, and that’s because our sin hurts the heart of God and grieves His Spirit. And even though it does not sever our relationship with Him, our sin does put a barrier between us.
Think of it like this. The physical relationship we have with our earthly fathers can never be broken. Genetically, no matter what we do, we can never become unrelated to our dads. The fellowship we have with our dads, however, can be hampered when we do things that hurt him or estrange him. The relationship can become strained, but he’s still your dad. In the same way, when we receive Christ into our lives God immediately becomes our Heavenly Father. But, our fellowship with God can be hampered just like our fellowship with our earthly dads can be hampered when we do things that hurt him or we rebel against him and push him away. That grieves God, and stands as a barrier between you and Him, and there will be lack in the relationship.
O Lord, please forgive us our trespasses, and please help us to forgive those who trespass against us.