Second Chances

Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh
“Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh

The famous Dutch painter, Vincent van Gogh, tossed away the truth imparted to him in his Christian home and sank into a deep depression and destructive lifestyle. By the grace of God, he later began to embrace God’s love again and found he was given a second chance. Van Gogh’s life took on hope, and he gave that hope color: yellow.

The truth van Gogh was discovering is seen in the gradual increase of the presence of the color yellow in his paintings. Yellow evoked (for him) the hope and warmth of God’s unconditional love, unmerited grace, and total forgiveness. In one of his depressive periods, seen in his famous The Starry Night, one finds a yellow sun and yellow swirling stars. But by the time he painted The Raising of Lazarus, his life was on the mend as he began to face the truth about himself and his need for Jesus Christ. The entire picture is (blindingly) bathed in yellow. In fact, van Gogh put his own face on Lazarus to express his own hope in the Resurrection and the way God saw him.

Jesus doesn’t look at us the way others do. We look in the mirror and see our flaws. Jesus looks at us and sees what He can make of us as we trust in Him and His Word. We see our own shortcomings. Others point out our mistakes. But Jesus sees us and says, “I see what you can be.” He sees our potential.

One of the best examples of God’s radical grace and His gift of second chances is found in John 8.

2 At dawn [Jesus] went to the temple complex again, and all the people were coming to Him. He sat down and began to teach them. 3 Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, making her stand in the center. 4 “Teacher,” they said to Him, “this woman was caught in the act of committing adultery. 5 In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do You say?” 6 They asked this to trap Him, in order that they might have evidence to accuse Him. Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with His finger. 7 When they persisted in questioning Him, He stood up and said to them, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Then He stooped down again and continued writing on the ground. 9 When they heard this, they left one by one, starting with the older men. Only He was left, with the woman in the center. 10 When Jesus stood up, He said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 “No one, Lord,” she answered. “Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” John 8:1–11

The ultimate reason Jesus could forgive the adulterous woman from condemnation is that He would soon take her condemnation on Himself and die in her place (cf. Romans 8:1-2). Her forgiveness was free, but it certainly wasn’t cheap. And God the Father offers that same forgiveness to us because the price for it has already been paid by His Son, Jesus.

Jesus’ act of forgiveness of this woman was also followed by a challenge. He said, “There needs to be a change in your life. Don’t keep living this destructive way. I have a new way of living for you. It’s a life of the greatest freedom available, but one that has clear perimeters for your own protection.”

The adulterous woman needed her life to be completely renovated, rebuilt, restored – repainted. Her life was dark and full of despair. The Pharisees hearts were, also, pitch-black and full of pride. She knew she needed grace; they thought they had the right to judge. Jesus offered forgiveness to all of them, He offered it to van Gogh — and to us, as well.

"The Raising of Lazarus" by Vincent van Gogh
“The Raising of Lazarus” by Vincent van Gogh

Yellow paints the story of second chances: life can begin all over again because of God’s grace and forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ. Each of us, whether with actual yellows or metaphorical yellows, can begin to paint our lives with the fresh hope of a new beginning in Jesus. Our lives can be repainted for second chances.

Follow me…as I follow Jesus Christ.

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