On the left of Jesus as we look at the Easter Icon are (front to back) John the Baptist who is not only the forerunner of Jesus in life, but also in death and so takes a front-row-seat in the resurrection icon. Behind him are the two kings, Solomon (older) and (David) younger who are biologically linked to the human Jesus in his lineage and who represent human life being brought from the past and future into Hades as Jesus breaks open its gates. And behind them is Moses who is the observer of the first Passover.
As I meditate on this icon I notice the eyes. Jesus is looking off to one side to represent, perhaps, his searching for all souls. The two kings are looking in different directions but not at the viewer (at us) perhaps representing how distracted the rich can be. Only John and Moses, who lost everything in their pilgrimage for God, are looking directly at us.
Moses was chosen to speak for God in the Hebrew scriptures and John was chosen to speak for God in the Christian scriptures. Both were tortured souls. Both were nearly driven crazy with the task of mediating between God and humanity. Both were, well, a bit odd and neither were the kind of people we like to invite to a dinner party lest they shock our friends. But here they are, in the resurrection icon, given high place in the story.
This image in Easter week reminds me that we are all called to be shocked by what has happened in the cosmos by God’s action. We are called to shake things up. We are called to be lonely, isolated prophets and sometimes even to give up our comforts in the process of speaking truth to power. We are not called to be elegant Anglicans but rather, nearly-crazed, lunatic, passionate evangelists for what God is doing- calling people in our lives to come and see what God is doing. We are in a line of John and Moses and that may be why they stare at us unrelentingly. Or we are just kings – crowned, elegant and dull.
I love these words from a favorite writer:
“Why do people in church seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? … Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us to where we can never return.”
—Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters (New York: Harper & Row, 1982), pp. 40-41.