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Art for Good Friday, "The Descent"

This week's art is by Rev. T. Denise Anderson

Inspired by John 18:12-18; 19-27 | Theme: "Prone to leave the God I love"

Cotton, appliqué

Artist's Statement

I love portraiture and textiles, but until now, I’ve never married those two things. At the time of this piece’s creation, I’d been doing a lot of sewing, particularly of stoles and vestments. When it came to choosing a medium for this collaboration, fabric would not let me go! It makes sense that, as we consider the interweaving of Peter’s own story with that of the crucifixion, the medium for this piece would itself be woven. What must Peter have felt in those fateful moments of betrayal?

Here, I try to capture Peter’s initial paralysis when he’s first asked if he’s one of Jesus’ disciples. When Jesus was arrested, Peter had only begun to see the full extent of the empire’s cruelty. “Would they do to me what they’ve done to him?” he must have asked himself. Maybe he could be so zealous for Jesus in the past because it was all an abstraction. Now, things have gotten frighteningly real.

From there, Peter descends into more fear—the kind that does not help us to be our best selves. I depict him going from stunned to defensive and then to belligerent, navigating the full spectrum of the fight, flight, or freeze responses to a perceived threat. By the time the cock crows as Jesus predicted (see if you can make out the bird’s faint silhouette in the lower right-hand corner), Peter probably no longer recognizes himself. He must feel deflated and ashamed. At the end of his descent he is different, so I depict him differently from his three prior denials. He has much less fire in his countenance and can’t even open his eyes to face what he’s done.

The flames recall the fire where Peter warmed himself, but they also represent purification and illumination. Peter is forced to see himself as he truly is—as Jesus had already shown him. Who will he choose to be after this? When we are confronted with who we truly are, who will we choose to be after that confrontation? As we look at Peter’s journey, it’s my prayer that we will consider and meditate on our own


—Rev. T. Denise Anderson


Denise (she/her) is a minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the acting Director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries. A graduate of Howard University School of Divinity, she is the former Co-Moderator of the 222nd General Assembly (2016) of the Presbyterian Church (USA). A nationally-recognized writer and blogger, Denise’s work has appeared in The Christian Century, The Huffington Post, These Days, and on her own blog, SOULa Scriptura: To Be Young, Gifted, and Reformed. Denise writes, preaches, and engages on issues of social justice, diversity, and reconciliation. As a gifted visual artist, she creates art that explores themes of spirituality, history, religion, and race. @tdandersonart


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