The Gospel of John Ch 1-3

The Art
Yes this is the same bird, painted twice , though facing the opposite way to the Beloved Disciple title page.  It is sometimes interesting for an artist to paint the same thing again to see if you handle it differently a second time round.  The butterflies are Clouded Yellows. Quite rare now. And the roses came from my Garden. I wish I could claim to be a good gardener. I do my best. But actually, these roses were already here when we moved in! You know, being a Christian has its price. Honesty comes with the territory.
The cross is central to the Christian faith and not just a piece of jewellry. It is the axis mundi of history, the pivotal moment in the history of the world when Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, was crucified on our behalf. if there is one single piece of information to be learnt in the course of our life, this is it. What we do with that information will determin how we will spend eternity. There is an information super highway and there is a narrow path. The Good Shepherd walks the narrow path. There you go. They were right. It is who you know, after all. 

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"I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we only will tune in".   George Washington Carver. That is such a great quote from  a man of God who has inspired millions. Much of what we call science today is little more than theoretical maths, attempting to explain reality by complex equations. So much of it sounds  like sorcery to me. Thank God for real scientists like George Washington Carver. 

​I like doing floral surrounds. I did one for the "For God so Loved " series. It provides an opportunity to bring a lot of elements together that you would not normally see in the Natural World. The Long Tailed Tits complement the pinks and reds of the flowers, a theme I continued into the next picture. When I walk around a garden the things I hope to see are a rich abundance of flowers, trees and the real presence of wildlife. Structured, formal gardens with their almost sterile landscape do not do it for me. A perfect lawn dotted with molehills is always going to raise a smile on this artists face.

​The words are the seven I am statements of Jesus in the Gospel of John. Is the number significant? Possibly, when you consider the Book of Revelation and how many times it appears there. When jesus pronounces a final eighth I am, those who came to arrest him, fell backwards. There is power in the name of God.
Butterflies are flitting moments of colour, and Red Admirals are common enough for most people to recall seeing one at some point in their life. It seems to be their purpose to put a smile on my face, and possibly to put a smile on everyones face. To catch one sunning itself, which they love to do, is a pleasure better than chocolate. OK, that might be stretching it a bit, but you get my drift. Red Campion nd bluebells, especially in woodland swathes. Ahhhh.

When the world thinks of Jesus it is usually in terms of his life and death and not much either side  of those parameters. But these opening verses of Johns Gospel echo Genesis (Gen 1:1),

"but whereas Genesis refers to the God's activity at the beginning of creation, here we learn of a being who existed before creation took place. In the beginning the Word already was. So we actually start before the beginning, outside of time and space in eternity. If we want to understand who Jesus is, John says, we must begin with the relationship shared between the Father and the Son "before the world began" (Jn 17:5, 24). This relationship is the central revelation of this Gospel and the key to understanding all that Jesus says and does.The first verse is very carefully constructed to refer to the personal distinctness yet the essential oneness of the Word with God." (The IVP commentary)


Whenever we go to the RSPB site of Minsmere, I always look for a Stonechat, especially along the strand by the sea. These small relatives of the Robin are so beautiful you can't help but love them. If you get too close to the nesting site they will "chink" you. That is the alarm sound they make, supposedly similar to two stones being struck together. Hence the name, "stonechat".

"Little is actually known of John the Baptist, although we do know that John was a Levite, one of the special tribe set aside by God to take care of all of the work associated with the temple (Numbers 1:50-53). John was the son of Zechariah, a temple priest of the lineage of Abijah, while John’s mother Elizabeth was from the lineage of Aaron (Luke 1:5). John was also related to Jesus as their mothers were cousins (Luke 1:36). John lived a rugged life in the mountainous area of Judea, between the city of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. It is written that he wore clothes made out of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist. His diet was a simple one—locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:4). John lived a simple life as he focused on the kingdom work set before him."

"John the Baptist's one business was to bear witness to Christ. He was the morning star which heralds the rising sun. When the Sun appeared, he had no more reason for shining. You cannot account for John except by Jesus—the one reason for John's existence is Jesus. I wish it might be so with us."    C.H.Spurgeon
 


These small thrushes turn up every winter in considerable numbers, seeking food and driven from Northern Europe by harsher winters. They get their name, Redwings, from the obvious flash of red just beneath their wings. They are always in competition for the last hawthorn berries still clinging to the trees, not only with our resident birds, but also with our other, and larger, winter migrant, the Fieldfare. That is how I have depicted them here, jealously guarding their food supply. They must really like it in the south of England, especially here in Essex, because our winters are so mild. I can only remember snow in any significant measure three or four times in the last Forty years or so. 

​Behold the Lamb of God
The Lamb of God is dramatically revealed in Exodus 12 and 13, with the Jewish Feast of the Passover. This is perhaps the most compelling foreshadow of the coming Lamb of God, the Messiah. The Passover Feast occurs each year on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Nisan. It is eaten in remembrance of the Lord "passing over" the houses of those who had sacrificed the Passover Lamb and sprinkled its blood on their wooden doorposts and mantles, while the angel of death visited those who had not sprinkled the blood of the lamb. The angel of death was the final of ten plagues sent by God to redeem His people from slavery in Egypt, the land of their bondage. Approximately 1,500 years later, on the 14th day of Nisan, the Passover Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, was sacrificed upon a wooden cross for the sins of all mankind. When the Day of the Lord comes, those who have covered themselves in the blood of the Lamb by accepting Christ will be kept safe while the world pays for their rebellion against God. https://www.allaboutjesuschrist.org/lamb-of-god.htm 
These small thrushes turn up every winter in considerable numbers, seeking food and driven from Northern Europe by harsher winters. They get their name, Redwings, from the obvious flash of red just beneath their wings. They are always in competition for the last hawthorn berries still clinging to the trees, not only with our resident birds, but also with our other, and larger, winter migrant, the Fieldfare. That is how I have depicted them here, jealously guarding their food supply. They must really like it in the south of England, especially here in Essex, because our winters are so mild. I can only remember snow in any significant measure three or four times in the last Forty years or so. 

​Behold the Lamb of God
The Lamb of God is dramatically revealed in Exodus 12 and 13, with the Jewish Feast of the Passover. This is perhaps the most compelling foreshadow of the coming Lamb of God, the Messiah. The Passover Feast occurs each year on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Nisan. It is eaten in remembrance of the Lord "passing over" the houses of those who had sacrificed the Passover Lamb and sprinkled its blood on their wooden doorposts and mantles, while the angel of death visited those who had not sprinkled the blood of the lamb. The angel of death was the final of ten plagues sent by God to redeem His people from slavery in Egypt, the land of their bondage. Approximately 1,500 years later, on the 14th day of Nisan, the Passover Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, was sacrificed upon a wooden cross for the sins of all mankind. When the Day of the Lord comes, those who have covered themselves in the blood of the Lamb by accepting Christ will be kept safe while the world pays for their rebellion against God. https://www.allaboutjesuschrist.org/lamb-of-god.htm 
At the beginning of the year the male Chaffinch in full breeding plumage is a most striking bird. At the end of the season when the "kids" have flown the roost, not so much! And mum looks positively ragged. I have seen birds almost bald from the effort. There is a profound lesson to be learnt here concerning the raising of children. You can lose your plumage!

There was a time in Ye Olde England, to travel from city to city or village to village, when there were only unmade roads flanked by wildflowers and hedgerows and you were more likely to encounter someone on foot than on a horse. The  Chaffinch was the most common bird in the land. But times change and with it the fortunes of many wax and wane. Today, believe it or not, the most common bird in Britain is also the smallest, the Wren!

​I have often wondered why Jesus chose these particular twelve people to be his primary group of disciples. They were hardly the brightest stars in the sky, were they. They were slow to believe and frequently lacked faith. They were uneducated for the most part, and argumentative, especially when it came to who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of the their Lord. But they were faithful, when many of Jesus' other disciples abandoned him. See the Gospel of John chapter 6. 


When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

The birds are Grey Wagtails, relatives of the more common Pied Wagtail. As you can see from the painting they are really rather more colourful. They are also not so well known or seen. Unlike the Pied Wagtail, which you can see all year round even in towns and cities, they prefer rivers and streams of remote locations.  This year we spent a couple of weeks in Fort William, Scotland, and took advantage of the local walks including Glen Nevis which is criss-crossed by streams tumbling down from the surrounding mountains. This is perfect country for birds like the Yellow Wagtail and the Dipper. Some of these walks are not for the faint of heart!What I really like about the Highlands is the real sense you are no longer in familiar territory. Many of the local signs are in Gaelic. In the spirit of our visit, here is a little bit of Gaelic from the gospel of John 



Anns an toiseach bha am Facal,
agus bha am Facal còmhla ri Dia,
agus b' e am Facal Dia.


In the beginning was the Word
And the Word was with God
​And the Word was God.

We are told that the marraige at Cana, to which Jesus and his family were invited, is the first of seven signs that John chose so that we might believe. He admits at the end of the Gospel that he could written so much more, but if he had, all the books in the world could not contain them. Once again, the use of the number seven reveals a special significance the writer of the gospel and indeed the Book of Revelation, attatched to this number. Indeed, from beginning to end, the Bible uses the number seven 735 times (54 times in the book of Revelation alone), the number seven is the foundation of God's word. If we include with this count how many times 'sevenfold' (6) and 'seventh' (119) is used, our total jumps to 860 references. Seven is the number of completeness and perfection (both physical and spiritual). It derives much of its meaning from being tied directly to God's creation of all things.

​The marraige at Cana was used extensively by the fiction writer, Dan Brown, in his novel the Da Vinci Code. It became an international best seller and caught the public imagination for all the wrong reasons. The claim that this wedding was Jesus' own wedding to Mary Magadalene required a great deal of imaginative distorting of truth, including the Bible account. The public didn't care that the material used by Brown wasn't his own but originated in a book on the Holy Grail penned more than twenty years earlier; and they certainly didn't care to look more closely at the only real information concerning the priciple characters, that is the New Testament.  If anyone is interested, a very good book totally debunking it is, "The Gospel Code" by Ben Witherington.

The birds in the painting are a Merlin and Wren, who are not necessarily the best of bedfellows! The butterfly is a Small Tortoiseshell. There will come a day when these beautiful examples of creation will happily co-exist. 


If you take a walk along one of te RSPB footpaths that run alongside a reedbed, or better still, take a boatride along a river that is lined with reeds and bulrushes, you will likely hear the singing of dozens of small birds. Actually seeing them is another matter. The birdsong will likely belong to one of two birds, the Reed warbler and the one I have painted here, the Sedge Warbler. Apart from the Sedge Warblers occasional flight up into the air and back down again, that is as good as it gets. These birds are what Bill Oddie used to refer to as "little brown Jobs" . It is a bit of an unfair description because I think they are rather lovely. Yes, the painting on the left is something of a fantasy in terms of posing. An artist rarely gets this lucky. Well, that is down to artistic license. But at least the flag iris  is pleasing to the eye and you do get to see what the bird looks like. The small dragonfly is a Banded Damoiselle. I dare say, that if the warbler sees it that might be game over.

​To a lot of people, even some who claim to be Christian, the idea that "gentle Jesus meek and mild" could ever make a whip and use it on people, is something they just can't accept, even though it is there in the bible for all to read and believe. This is especially true in modern times. Our language and the meaning of words are undergoing something of a revolution in this post-modern world. All the old characters from the horror films are now the good guys. Black is the new white. There is no such thing as objective truth because evryman's truth is as good as next man's truth, even if it is not true at all. Even Lucifer, the Devil, has his own TV show. It goes without saying, that words like "sin" and "Hell" are not very popular. But Jesus made a whip and brought it down on the backs of the wicked money lenders, oh sorry, honest merchants just trying to earn a living.
There is something about old terracotta pots that I find interesting. In fact, they just get more and more interesting the older they get; cracks and marks, lichen and moss just add to their value as far as I'm concerned. Whether they are useful as a pot any more is entirely another subject. But for an artist, and I've said this elsewhere I'm sure, things are never more interesting than when they begin to fall apart. I speak from experience. May we live in interesting times! There are now so many varieties of pansy out there you could paint a different one every day for ten years. The old moss laden tree at the bottom is an alder. It is probably in the last stages of its life. Like I said, interesting. The two titmice are Coaltits. The other bird is a Siskin. The butterfly is a Speckled Wood. Once again, unusual combinations, artistic license.

​The Temple of Jesus' day was apparently a thing of spectacular beauty, built by an evil man and designed to impress. Ironic isn't it, that the one who built the Temple was the same man who tried to murder the infant Jesus, God, the Word born in Human flesh. Jesus of course saw through it all. He knew the religious hypocrisy of the ruling elite and the ultimate fate of this temple; and he knew what the religious authorities who ran the temple would do to him at the first opportunity. He predicted his own death and resurrection. Three days and he would rise from the dead. They had no idea  what he was talking about. They would reject him as their messiah and crucify him . Less than forty years later the Romans would raise the temple to the bedrock on which it was built. Not one stone was left on another. It is a mistake to think that the Wailing wall was part of the temple itself. It was a retaining wall designed to expand the temple mount. Nothing more.
In chapter one I painted one of our winter visitors, the Redwing. Here is another member of the thrush family, the Fieldfare. They come to Britain for exactly the same reason, to escape the much harsher North European winter and a scarcity of food. Large flocks of these birds can be seen in our fields and hedgerows. Few people realise that birds we consider native to britain are actually migrants from Africa or Northern Europe.

Autumn going into winter is a glorious time for colour if you catch it at just the right moment.



Autumn
is really the best
of the seasons;
and I'm not sure
that old age
isn't the best
part of life.

C S Lewis


I think the little Lapwing chick looks so cute. There are probably another two snug and warm under mum. These birds are are properly called Green Plovers, though as you can see, their plumage has a kind of metalic sheen to it that shimmers in the sunlight. Starlings have a similar sheen to them.

Only Johns Gospel provides information about this secret nightime encounter between a Pharisee named Nicodemus and Jesus. It is an important meeting, for we learn that being religious will not earn a person salvation no matter how good we think we are. Jesus reveals the truth to Nicodemus. To be saved and gain entry into Heaven after death, a person must be born again. Nicodemus, depite being a religious teacher has no idea what Jesus is talking about. 

"Jesus answered him, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."
​But Nicodemus does not understand, even when Jesus explains further. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. "

​What does the Christian mean by being "born again"? The Apostle Paul explains to us. "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. "

Nicodemus eventually came to be a disciple Jesus.

​​
The small woodpecker in this painting is something of a rarity. Very few birdspotters have seen one (including me) even less know of it's existence. It's called a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, not because it isn't seen very often or because it has less spots than the Greater Spotted Woodpecker, but because it is smaller. Not much different to a sparrow actually.  Well, how nerdy is all that information! But nature is all about detail. The small bird perched atop the tree, on the other hand, is a common garden visitor. The Blue Tit.  He has his eye on that bug flying away. These birds are familiar visitors to my art and may they continue to be so. Yes, another old tree from my collection of photos of old trees. People tell me that I need to get out more. I get out quite a lot thank you very much. How else do you think I got so many pictures of old trees. Some one once asked me did I paint nudes? (I think they thought that there was something prerverse in wanting to paint trees.) To which I replied, "do you know what the life expectancy of a married artist is who paints nudes? About the same as a first World War infantry man." (I don't by the way)
​But not for that reason. I think painting nudes is just another form of soft porn. Actually, some of it is not all that soft. And I can hear the counter arguments already, "art is not porn". To which I would say, "of course it is, it's just a matter of a brush instead of a camera". And the arguments go back and forth. At the end of the day people will justify their lust any which way they can. And they do. In a nutshell, it isn't good for the soul. For me it is not part of the Christian walk and Christian artists dally with it at tremendous risk. I leave you here with a well known quote from the text opposite.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

"He is cute though. Those big eyes. And he is not the kind of mouse that wants to move into your house and chew through your food containers, electric cables, and sleep amidst the towels in your airing cubhoard. And then there is the...well you know if you have ever had mice where this is going. No, this is a country mouse. To give it its proper name, Wood Mouse. Some experts call it a Long Tailed Field Mouse." So went my response to, "I don't like mice, why don't you paint another bird or a flower. Or a hedgehog, I like hedgehogs." What can I say, I like Hedgehogs too, I have painted several of them. And if it were not for the damage that an ever increasing colony of House Mice can do to your property, I would not have a problem with them either.

​" He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease."

​So answered John the Baptist to the complaints of his own disciples that Jesus was gaining in popularity, possible at his expence. He fully recognised his own limitations and at the same time understood who Jesus really was. He accepted in total humility that his mission was almost complete. I wish I had that kind of humility. To be able to say as a Christian, "He must increase, but I must decrease" would be the perfect ideal and way of being. Too often pride surfaces in my heart in response to situations. Like when you turn up at one of the hides at an RSPB site and all the seats are taken. I mean, the correct respose should be Joy that so many people are appreciating Gods' creation, even if they don't understand it that way. Instead..............
Another impossible scene. Ok, perhaps not impossible, but highly unlikely. What are the chances of a Robin, Nuthatch, Hedgehog and a Painted Lady Butterfly all posing perfectly so that I could sit a few feet away and paint them. And sister Robin, would you mind standing on top of this carefully positioned apple? No, it didn't just leap out of the box into the perfect place. Oh, I nearly forgot the Ladybird. What can I say. Families sitting, all facing a camera, are not exactly natural either, are they? Yes, the painting owes more to imagination than any natural event, but I was trying to create something beautiful. When you see everything in harmony like this, think of it as a small glimpse into the future. This part of Christian eschatology (the study of end times) and the great hope of Christians when God, through Christ, will regenerate (re-Genesis) the Earth and all Christian believers. At the moment we see, as it were, through a glass darkly. This is the Kingdom, the age to come. If you wish to be a part of that, and who wouldn't, Then something is required of you. The Gospel, which I have illustrated opposite for your pleasure, has this to say, and it is a case of paying attention to the detail.

​"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him."

​The wrath of God? There it is. The world and everyone in it will one day pass away and there will be a new Heaven and Earth. (Eternal Life) But here is the important bit. Only those who believe (are Born Again) will survive the coming wrath to spend eternity in the re-generation. There is a choice to be made. Today, if you hear his call, don't put it off. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, there is no other name by which man might be saved.​ 

All the art  in this Gallery was created with home made watercolour paint on 140lb Fabriano Artistico Paper. 22* x 15* (Does not use animal products in the sizing) I used Rosemary & Co Brushes. (Synthetic) The calligraphy was done by hand using a brush and acrylic ink.

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If you would like to leave a comment or ask me a question concerning the art or anything I have written on this site I can be contacted at the following address. 

crowman24@hotmail.co.uk