A commemoration of what Christ did for the world matched with papercut illustrations
When I got saved at the age of ten, I was visiting my auntie in Mexico. She kindly flipped through the gospels to show me the many passages in her Bible that told of Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection. Her Bible was riddled with underlines of all sorts of colors – bold in some, thin in others. Her handwriting was stroked by hands that trembled and she never mistook me as too young to understand the truth of God’s word. It was easy to understand salvation, and I knew that at the age of ten.
As a young believer, I had only a Spanish language Reina-Valera Bible to guide me through my walk with the Lord in those formative years. Every day, I took that Bible to school in my jelly bag covered in bear emblems.
It was heavy to carry that along with my school books and Pee-Chee folders. I treasured that Bible with all my heart, and was never ashamed of it taking residence among my school belongings. I loved flipping through its pages, rereading the dedication marked by the unsteady hand of my auntie.
Although I did not understand the fullness of the gospel then, the depth of Christ’s love (and who will ever understand that?), I know that salvation wasn’t meant to be complicated. It is a gift that I could not refuse because the love imparted from the giver is immeasurable.
I missed my auntie and our faithful conversations through the years. I saw her on a few occasions after I married when she would visit my mother (her sister) or while she was en-route to Cuba for cancer treatments. To express my gratitude for all she had shown me – a vital reward that would shift my life for eternity – I kept my word that I would pursue the Lord with all my strength and surrender my life to Him. I hear the echo of Paul’s words to Timothy as if my auntie had said them to me:
“I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day; Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy.” (1 Timothy 1:3-4)
Now, imagine my gratitude when I came upon Easter by Polish-British author and illustrator, Jan Pieńkowski. Similar to his The First Christmas, Pieńkowsi dazzles readers with his poignant illustrations of Jesus Christ as he travels with the twelves disciples to Bethany for the Passover and then to Jerusalem.
The gorgeously told story of Jesus Christ during his final days on earth summon what one passage of Revelation states: ““Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Rev 4:11)
Indeed, the heart of this book brings glory and honor to the Saviour as told with its jagged edged papercut images, intensifying with grace the focal points of Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection. Pieńkowski’s silhouetted illustrations are deeply evocative, dramatically colored, capturing the ancient setting of home interiors, gardens, staircases, and familiar critters perched over thorny branches, twigs, or stems – a filigree outlined in golden ink as a backdrop to decorative drop caps.
“Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair.”
Then Judas “went immediately out: and it was night.” This is just like us, isn’t it, when we are confronted with our sin? We run, we avoid the truth – this embodiment of truth who stood before Judas.
Peter defends the Lord with the sword in his hand and cuts the ear off the one who opposed him. Isn’t it like that sometimes, when we want to protect the name of the Lord, defend its integrity, honor its significance?
Peter, however, denies Christ three times, as Christ predicted he would. Peter recoils, but he pursues the Lord from afar now. Peter in one moment displays strength that is unmistakable, but in a moment depicts the antithesis of who we know him to be. We are like that too, fickle. We cower when confronted. We warm our hands at the fire of our dearest friends’ enemies.
“One of the thieves which were crucified with him railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other rebuked him, saying, Dost thou fear God? For we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.”
These thieves are contrasting examples of man’s condition and are a warning of where we may find ourselves in our final hour: with the Lord, or without Him – with Him in paradise, or forever separated from Him.
On that cross, the Saviour shed his precious blood as an atonement for our sins. It was a global event in which “there was a darkness over the earth until the ninth hour. The sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent.”
After the Lord was slain on that cross, He commended his spirit into the hands of the Father. His body was brought down and “wrapped in a clean linen cloth with spices, myrrh, and aloes…”
At dawn, Mary Magdalene found the stone of the tomb moved. “They have taken away the Lord.” She wept at the sepulcher and Jesus saith, “Woman, why weepest thou?” She didn’t recognize Jesus during this exchange, until He called her by name. Isn’t it just like us as well, to doubt the voice of the Lord, until we realize that all along He knows us by name.
Easter, a complete memorable delight, comes from Alfred A. Knopf. Complement this with Pieńkowski’s The First Christmas, then take a look at this stunning video depiction of the events of the Bible with paper cut silhouettes.