Who Paints the Masterpiece?
Heralded as a masterpiece of classicism in the world of art, The School of Athens, painted by Rafael, is widely known and admired. This work is one of four frescoes, all of which seem to represent the quest for knowledge and understanding. While the physical painting is housed in The Apostolic Palace of the Vatican, the artist’s likeness is housed in the painting itself. Along with contemporaries such as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, one of the hidden gems within the painting is in the examination of the faces present. Rafael painted himself into the picture next to the column as a man seeking wisdom and knowledge from the central figure of Plato, as depicted in the face of Leonardo da Vinci. His desire for understanding was openly depicted by the strokes of his brush and illustrated by his proximity to the teacher. Who a person chooses as a guide in seeking to improve their understanding always speaks volumes
about the individual. However, as illuminated in the life of today’s character witness, fulfillment swings on the hinge of application.
“The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions” (Matt. 19:20–22). What a suit he must have been wearing! His shirt was no doubt pressed perfectly, his tie superbly sporting a double Windsor knot, and his snakeskin shoes polished well to shed the dust. Seemingly cool, calm, and collected, we watch him as he strides
toward Christ for a conversation about the weighty subject matter of eternity. As a man who is follicly challenged (terminology only accepted by Wiktionary), I have a proclivity to picture him with a full head of hair–just thick and wavy enough to be impressive to guys in my stage of life. This story begins as an incredible moment of civility, portrayed by his humble acknowledgment of Christ. We watch the interaction unfold between him and Christ, and as readers we are thankful to see someone seeking full understanding. However, like an unanticipated uppercut, suddenly the story lands a devastating blow, leaving the reader feeling deflated and disappointed.
I’d submit for your consideration that the rich young ruler (like the artist Rafael) had painted a masterpiece, but it was only in his mind. The canvas of his imagination showed his prominence, possessions, and diligence existing harmoniously together with Christ as he anticipated the eternal blessings soon to be bestowed upon him. However, the challenge from Jesus was that he might become perfect–a word later translated by Paul in I Corinthians to mean mature. He is unable to accept the cost of the perfection that Christ asks of him, and he walks away saddened. He realizes that when Christ holds the brush, He determines not only what needs to be painted in, but what needs to be blotted out.
As readers, or more importantly followers of Christ, we are left with an important question: “Am I painting my life, or is the I AM painting my life?