I like simple folk, I like truth and honesty. I love God. In art, too, I seek honesty and strive to radiate it. Marc Chagall


Zantingh, Petra - VM - Marleen Hengelaar

Petra Zantingh: Watchful Trees

by Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker

During Jesus’ last Passover meal an ominous tone prevails. Jesus warns his disciples: “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” “Surely not I, Lord?” they all wonder. As customary they end the meal by singing ‘the hymn’, the Hallel which consists of Psalms 113-118, songs of praise, gratitude and confidence in God's covenant and redemption.

The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans.

After this they go out to the Mount of Olives. Jesus takes Peter, James and John with him and begins to be deeply grieved and agitated. “Remain here, pray for me, stay awake with me,” he pleads. Then he prays: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.” Jesus himself puts the image of the cup central in Matthew 26 to describe the terror facing him. Petra Zantingh’s Watchful Trees shows us this cup, entwined with a crown of thorns – thorns referring to the curse in Genesis 3. How bitterly painful to drink from a cup with sharp prickles like this.

The cup could refer to the cup of God’s wrath or judgement, but here I see it as the cup of Christ’s calling. Did you notice the ear of the cup in the painting? A calling asks for obedience, for acceptance of the suffering that comes with a life’s task. Underneath the cup it is dark; there is even a hint of a snake. Yet higher up there are greens with a suggestion of leaves. The cup itself is bright and white, almost shiny at the top. Do we see the face and body of Christ shimmering behind it, through it? Through this cup Jesus gives himself to us, filling the cup with the wine of his blood.

When Jesus returns to his beloved disciples, he finds them sleeping. Maybe the four cups of wine of the Passover meal got the better of them. They seem to be ‘in the dark’ about their master’s life’s work. It must have made Jesus feel very lonely in his mission. The miserable betrayal by his best friends has begun. Thank God he is not really alone. His Father is watching over him.