His Appearance Was Like Lightning

Resurrection panel from the Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald, 1510

Resurrection (Isenheim Altarpiece) by Matthias Grünewald

Today, Christians celebrate the most significant day of their religious calendar: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Matthias Grünewald’s Resurrection panel, one of three that make up the Isneheim Altarpiece, celebrates this glorious moment in history.

The subject of the Resurrection has been interpreted in many ways. Grünewald’s interpretation is certainly one of the most startling, like much of his surviving work. What I enjoy most is its more literal interpretation of the following Scripture from Matthew 28 (emphasis mine):

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.

In Grünewald’s painting, Christ is luminous much like lightning lights the Summer sky. Here, his image could also be interpreted as reflecting his mission of being the light of the World. (John 8:12) In the Old Testament, light was a common metaphor for truth. Today, we Christians need to be reminded of the ultimate truth: without His Light, we would remain in darkness and sin, separated from a Holy God.

For those with an interest in Biblical studies, I found this article harmonizing the resurrection accounts to be an interesting read. Of course, there are also many book-length investigations into today’s Christian holiday.

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