Can the beauty of a sunrise eclipse the beauty of a sunset? The answer sure must be: only if the artist so desires as he uses his brush in expert and deft strokes to produce yet another of his masterpieces. Yes, it must be at the whim and fancy of the artist, I suppose. But, to be frank, never have I seen a sunrise surpass the beauty of a sunset. No, if one were to really compare the most beautiful sunset with the most beautiful sunrise, one would have to conclude that the sunset would win without a doubt.
Perhaps it is the darkness that follows that accentuates the beauty of the sunset as compared with the brightness of the great light that emerges from a sunrise. Perhaps too, it could be that in the case of the sunset, the display of radiant hues of red, yellow and orange as they linger on the screen of the mind is of such tremendous note that it is virtually unforgettable. For while I am wont to remember the scenic beauty of the sunset as the darkness envelops everything, I have no such longing in the case of the sunrise. For the beauty of the sunrise is soon forgotten with the ascent of the sun. “Yes, yes,” I hear you say, “Give me a sunset any day.” In winner’s closure must be the sunset. For, while the impression of the sunset lingers with me through the night, the sunrise is lost in a blaze of glory of the brilliant sun.
Therefore, it would appear to me and I dare say to you, there is no comparison between a sunrise and a sunset when one thinks of a thing of beauty. The sunset wins!
But is this the end of the story? Why do I get this dissatisfaction that so often accompanies an unsettled question? It is as if justice has not been served. Could it be that we, the judges, were prejudiced or that we simply did not examine all of the evidence? And, if there is more evidence, where is it to be found? Ah, back to the drawing board, back to the canvas: can the beauty of a sunrise eclipse that of a sunset?
But, if justice has been done why do I still have this empty feeling? Why does my innermost being cry out, “This is not the end of the matter.” Is there more to this matter than our finite minds and limited intelligence can grasp? I shudder to think that rather than enjoy the sunset and the sunrise of each day I have remaining on this terrestrial plain, I must be obsessed with an attempt to determine which has greater beauty. And so, I rest my case. It is not wise, I suppose, to compare the beauty of the two but to enjoy them as long as we live. And so, my prayer of thanksgiving is, “Lord, thank you for every sunset and every sunrise that you have given to me. You alone know the number of my days and since I can only count them by each sunrise and the sunset, I thank you for them all. Amen.”
Yet, I am still not satisfied, Lord. I feel as though there is something greater that you want to teach me when I gaze on every sunset and every sunrise. Tell me Father, what is the ultimate lesson that I should learn from these two paintings of nature? To what beyond themselves do they point?
And then, as the sun begins to rise in the east, as it commences to bring light to my groping eyes, His light begins to shine on my reverie. The answer slowly dawns on me as I contemplate a number of critical questions.
“When you examine the work of a great master painter or sculptor to whom does that work point you? Oh, that’s simple…to the painter or the sculptor who produced the work. And as you think of the artist do you not think of the message he is sending to his viewers? Do you not think, for example, that rather than attempt to rate his works, it might be better to dig a little deeper and discover the message that is in them?
Consequently, do you not see a message in the beauty of the sunset? Do you not remember what I showed you as you gazed upon that sunset? Come on back with me now and cast your mind’s eye on that moment…”
“Hey, that was not my magnificent best. There is better. Cast your mind back to another sunset in another time. View there the object that was silhouetted against the light of the sinking sun. Tell me, what do you see? Isn’t that by far a more glorious painting? Listen my child, even I could not exceed that. That was my magnificent best. And guess what! I earnestly desire to paint it on every heart that would gaze there on.”
“But there is more.”
Suddenly a greater light enveloped me as I gazed on that scene as if I were present when it happened. Projected from the light in my heart and visible before my mind’s eye was the most glorious sunset I had ever seen. And there, silhouetted against its background was a cross and on that cross was my Saviour…
“Only that it was not just a sunset depicting the sinking sun in its departing radiance, but the sunrise was already in evidence.”
It amazes me how so very often we extract the wrong answers even when we are in the right places. There was I then trying to dissect the work of art of the Master Artist and here I am now trying to compare His sunset and His sunrise to determine which is the more glorious. It as if we never really grasp the lessons that He brings to our wandering minds. Then, I had viewed the sinking sun and the silhouetted cross and only at the last moment had I perceived the initial evidence of the sunrise. But, it was there all the time. I hear you ask, “But where was the evidence that you speak of?”
Oh, it was there all right. It might have been obscured by the shadows of the mind but it was there.
Were I one of his disciples, perhaps I too would have missed it then. Not only had they misunderstood the purpose of the many miracles they saw him do but they had not even taken note of what he said. In fact, Peter had even determined that the prophecy of his demise would not materialise if he, Peter, had any say in the issue. Thank God he did not have a voice in the matter.
Neither did they understand when he rewarded the thief on the cross by offering to him everlasting life. And, if that was not sufficient, they certainly did not understand his triumphant words, “It is finished”. For them, that sunset spoke of certain finality. “It is finished.” There would be no sunrise. For, even if the sun should rise for them the next day and the next and the next, there would be no Master. For this champion who had come into their lives for a short while had now been taken from them. The sun had set on his radiance. Like so many of our relatives and friends now, for them then, “he now lies in yonder cemetery”.
They simply did not grasp the panoramic view of this tremendous painting. They were oblivious to the sequel of the sunset they still beheld. All they saw then was the sunset with its beauty soon eclipsed by the despairing gloom of the dark.
Why, even Satan and his hosts misread the canvas. Their rejoicing was soon short lived as the sequel across earth’s canopy radiated into the most glorious sunrise ever. “Why look you for the living among the dead? He is not here He is risen just like He said he would.”
So you see the works of God are not to be compared. He simply cannot out do Himself. We ought not to compare the sunset with the sunrise. Instead, we ought to see them both as paintings on the same canvas. His wonderful works are beyond comparison. While we join the songwriter in “glorying in the cross” let us also remember that the power of the cross is in the blessed resurrection of our dear Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. For there can be no crown without the cross and the cross is become a futile hope if there be no resurrection. Thank God for the cradle in which He lay, the cross from which He hung and the crown of everlasting life we shall gain at His glorious coming again.
Stewart Russell © 2009