The Promenades of Euclid (1955)
René Magritte

Easter 2, John 20:19-31

Historical Description:

René Magritte (1898-1967) was a surrealist painter from Belgium. Magritte was a resident of Belgium during the German occupation in World War II, during this time he supported himself by producing and selling fake Picassos, Braques, and Chiricos.

The Promenades of Euclid was painted in 1955 and has a regularly occurring image in Magritte’s paintings, a canvas on a canvas. At first glance the painting in the window seems to be a copy of the scenery behind, but, after some reflection, the viewer will realize that the artist may have painted an image to hide or edit reality.

Devotional Reflection:

Reality T.V.  The only shows that seem to be more outlandish are Science-Fiction. Ours is a society filled with images in movies and television. Images that show us what life is like or even what life could be like. But as a society we know those images, like scripted ‘reality’ T.V., aren’t always true. We know that many of these images are hiding something. So it is easy for us to be skeptical and harsh toward these things. It is easy to wonder if the director and the actors are being honest and upfront with us.

Consider this painting by René Magritte. As you study the painting, you may first be drawn to the twin peaks in the center of the window, but upon further inspection you realize that the second peak isn’t a peak at all, but a road that trails off into the distance. Your eyes are also drawn to the easel sitting in front of the window. As you look closer, you will notice the faint lines that form a canvas sitting in front of this city scape. The painting flows seamlessly with the city it depicts, every building and every window, even the leaves on the trees line up perfectly. But is it true?

Is this painting a real painting that the artist has given us to show a scene of beauty or is it a fake? Is it possible that some destruction has befallen this land or that some scar lies behind the easel? If only we could step to the left or the right we could see behind this painting and glimpse at reality, if only. But we can’t. We are stuck staring at what the artist wants us to see, wondering if it is truth or error. Knowing that so much of our society presents us with lies, we lean toward error.

Thomas struggled with the truth. Thomas had to see Jesus for himself; no mere story could prove it. Not only did he disbelieve the story of one disciple, he disbelieved all the disciples gathered in that locked room. Thomas questioned if their story was true, he would only believe if he also could see and touch the risen Lord. Eight days later, Thomas got his wish. Not only did he have the chance to see Jesus, but he was able to touch him; to put his very hand in the pierced side of the Savior. What an amazing gift to receive! In the midst of his cursed doubt, Thomas had a physical, real encounter with the one person who could wipe away his skepticism. Sometimes, we think how lucky we would be if only we could have been in that upper room, if only we could reach behind these stories and touch the living Jesus. And yet, “Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”

Even though Thomas saw and touched the risen Lord, Jesus spoke his word of blessing upon people like you and me. Those who have not seen and yet believe.  As we stare at this easel before the window, watching, wondering, waiting . . . Christ speaks to us:  “you are blessed, have faith.” Even though our perspective is blocked by a canvas, Jesus tells us that we are blessed. Even though we may struggle with skepticism toward the bible and the words of Christ, Jesus tells us that we are blessed. Even though we are cursed with that same doubt that plagued Thomas, even now we are blessed.  Today, Christ speaks to us and tells us a story of his love. Today, Christ’s words of grace speak into our lives and bring restoration and wholeness. Today, his words speak to our cursed perspective, our “not seeing,” and call us blessed and give us faith.

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