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March-April 2019 - Praying at Gethsemane

March 1, 2019 by Kathryn Kimball
Artist: He Qi (China, Contemporary)

In this issue’s cover art, He Qi, known for his use of traditional shapes and styles of Chinese folk art, depicts Jesus’ struggle as he prays in Gethsemane. The combination of vertical and horizontal lines in the painting captures Jesus’ humanity and divinity. Vertical lines show Jesus’ connection to God, while horizontal lines connect him with his disciples and his earthly life.

Situated in the center, Jesus looks up as he kneels in prayer. The vertical lines of Jesus’ hands and feet, his eyes, and the designs on the headbands worn by the sleeping disciples pull our attention upward to God as Jesus prays. The trees in the background of the garden have the same effect, emphasizing the ascension of Jesus’ prayers heavenward.

But in this moment, Jesus is also deeply aware of his humanity and the painful death that awaits him. The horizontal lines of his legs as he kneels in prayer mirror the lines of the disciples’ arms, legs, and reclined heads, emphasizing Jesus’ humanity. Even as Jesus sorrowfully struggles with his humanity, a triangle of light from God flows down over Jesus’ head, hands, and feet. God’s love flows through Jesus and continues to spread out horizontally over the disciples and into the world.

As I ponder the cover art for this issue, I am reminded of Paul’s words in his letter to the Romans: “Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:38-39, NIV). Jesus was not alone in Gethsemane.

The power of Lent is that even in the depth of pain and sorrow God was with Jesus. And through the mystery and promise of the Resurrection, God is with us, now and forever.

Cover art courtesy of He Qi. ©1999 He Qi. Prints of cover art are available from

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