As we focus on Christ’s triumph over the grave, I can’t imagine a better work of art to write about this Easter than the triumphant image of “The Resurrection,” by Ron DiCianni.
Ron began his work in commercial illustration. He quickly became recognized as one of the nation’s most talented illustrators. Ron’s client list was soon dominated by prominent companies like Eli Lilly and McDonald’s. He was chosen as the 1980 Official Olympic illustrator and is considered one of the most successful illustrators of his generation.
Ron has also created the artwork for book covers for some of the most-renowned Christian authors of our time – Max Lucado, Frank Peretti, and others. His most famous work is called “Spiritual Warfare” and has sold tens of millions of prints globally.
Ron considers himself “a Christian cleverly disguised as an artist.” His self-stated mission is to “Reclaim the Arts for Christ.” He was commissioned by the Museum of Biblical Art in Dallas, TX to create a mural after experiencing a tragic fire which culminated in nearly a total loss to the museum’s contents, among which was a mural that was well known for them as a “pilgrimage piece,” one that many came from all over the world to see.
“The Resurrection” is no small undertaking. It is, quite literally, a huge and expansive project – measuring 12’ high x 40’ wide. It is the largest mural ever of the resurrection. It is oil on canvas and took Ron two years to complete.
While the mural itself is breathtakingly beautiful, its purpose goes much deeper than just merely art. Ron has said about the subject matter, “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single most important occurrence in human history. This mural brings people in and lets them experience the moment in which Christ conquered the grave and stepped out of the tomb.”
On why he chose the resurrection for this mural, Ron comments, “Michelangelo painted ‘The Creation of Adam’ for the Sistine Chapel. Rembrandt painted the story of ‘The Prodigal Son.’ Every artist longs for the definitive subject to paint. The one that captures a moment in time, hoping that the viewer will put themselves there. For me, it is Christ’s Resurrection. The one act in history that separates Christianity from every philosophy, and dogma. The fact that Christ walked out of the tomb is a historical and theological fact. Some may choose to ignore it, but none can deny it.”
“The Resurrection” is a depiction of the moment Jesus emerges from the tomb. Ron said that he had never seen that particular scene painted before. He wanted to capture a single moment in time. Jesus steps up and out of the grave, His hands vaulting Himself from the borrowed tomb into the glorious resurrection dawn of Easter morning.
The rock under Christ’s feet is beginning to crack due to the earthquake. The keys of death and hell (Revelation ) are tied on Christ’s belt. The glory surrounding Christ’s head is created to also be reminiscent of the crown of thorns that was around Christ’s head only three days earlier.
Two angelic warriors are kneeling, their swords pointed to the ground and their heads bowed in humility. They are both the witnesses of the resurrection and the representatives of heaven’s angelic host. They bow before He who was made a little lower than the angels, but is now crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death and rose victorious (Hebrews 2:9).
The guards have fainted at the sight of the glory of the angels (Matthew 28:4). But the guards are an afterthought compared with the other figures in the painting.
Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” The opening words of this verse were the cue for the rest of the figures in the mural. Ron thought a great scene would be Christ emerging from the tomb, with many heroes of the faith waiting for Him.
Christ is the central figure of the painting, but there are a host of witnesses gathered on either side of Him. The first on each side is Moses (on the left) and Elijah (on the right). They were the two who were with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. Isaiah, who promised Immanuel born of a virgin (Isaiah ) and the suffering Messiah (Isaiah 53) is next to Abraham, the father of nations (Genesis 12) (both on the left). They get to see Immanuel, the Great Descendant of Abraham emerge from the tomb alive.
Elijah, who was transported to heaven without dying (2 Kings 2) and Noah (both on the left), who preached righteousness when no one would listen (Genesis 6), now know that all their effort was well worth it.
Between Elijah and Noah, there is a dove flying past, against the rocks. It is a symbol of the Holy Spirit (Matthew ), who, with the Father literally raised Christ from the dead, (Romans 6:4, ).
John the Baptist is there (on the right). He saw Jesus at the beginning of Christ’s ministry. He testified that Christ was the Lamb of God. Yet, John later questioned whether Jesus was the One (Luke ). Now he gets to watch Jesus walk out of the tomb … so he knows He’s the One.
Of all the figures, the three kneeling are David (on the left), Esther and Daniel (on the right). They are royalty bowing to the greatest of all Kings!
Each of these witnesses is transparent because they are in another dimension – the heavenly one.
In the right top background is
, also known as Mt.
the place of the skull. Above the hill is the hint of a rainbow. The darkness
of Good Friday is past. The promise of new life in the resurrection is present,
just as God gave Noah the promise of life after the worldwide flood.
As magnificent as all the other witnesses and elements in the painting are, your vision is always drawn back to the center – to Christ. He is stepping out of the tomb, His gaze upward to heaven. The artist wanted to sum up the entire painting in that single gaze – a gaze to the Father that says, “I did it!”
What does Christ’s triumph over the grave mean for you this Easter and beyond? It means:
- Your guilt has been washed away by Christ’s innocent blood shed on the cross.
- Death has been defeated by the Lord of life.
- Sin has been conquered by the sinless Son of God.
- The serpent of Satan lies crushed and defeated under the heel of the Woman’s Seed.
- The demons howl in defeat.
- The angels applaud in victory.
- The saints are in heaven, waiting for you to join them in the eternal Easter hymn, “Jesus Lives! The Victory’s Won!” (Christian Worship 145)