Sunday, November 17, 2019

Matthew 24.36-44: Surpris!

No one knows the hour. Or even the day. Life will be going on as always...dinner parties, weddings, family reunions. And then...surprise! The Son of Man will be here. (Matthew 24:36-44) The follow-up in Matthew's gospel has to do with surprise after surprise after surprise. So stay awake, the gospel writer says, because you never know when it might happen.

That kind of day - when God enters the world and changes the world - is a thread throughout scripture. The prophets spoke of it (Isaiah 2:12, Amos 5:18, Joel 2:32), and not always with images that are comforting.

Be awake. Be aware. Be ready.

Henri Rousseau's painting below tells a tale of unexpected things. Originally titled Tiger in a Tropical Storm the painting shows a tiger, crouching, with teeth bared, as a streak of lightning splits the sky and rain streaks through the painting. That original title was changed after the painting was rejected by the jury for the 1891 show of the Academie de Peinture et Sculpture. Rousseau renamed the picture Surprised! (in French, Surpris!) and showed it instead in the Salon des Independents, a show that was unjuried and open to all artists.
Henri Rousseau. Surprised! 1891. London: National Gallery 
The newer title is ambiguous. Who is surprised? The jurors who rejected the painting and assumed it would never be in an art show? The tiger who was taken unaware by the storm and lightning strike? Or the prey just out of the picture space who is getting ready to be surprised - and not in a good way - by the tiger? 

Whatever way, something unexpected has happened or is about to happen. Had the tiger expected the storm and strike, it would have made plans to be safe at home. Had the prey known the tiger was coming, it would have taken a different path.

And we also must be ready.

For thoughts on Isaiah 2:1-5, click here.
For thoughts on Matthew 24:41, see Art&Faith Matters on Facebook.

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