What an odd title. Any Sunday school attendee knows that there are only four answers to every question about Christianity: God, Jesus, The Holy Spirit and the Bible. Use any one of them to answer a Sunday school question and you have a great chance of being right. In this case it shouldn’t be hard to choose the right answer. The Bible isn’t a who, but instead it is a what, so that’s out. God and The Holy Spirit are not defined by being physical or tangible in the realm of human existence so putting either of them on the cross is impossible. Jesus on the other hand was human, okay he was God as well and filled with The Holy Spirit, but He was a physical being, tangible like all of us, so He must be the one on the cross.
Deduction produces the right biblical answer but is that the answer for everyone?
It was probably one of the strangest parent teacher interactions ever. My wife and a very confused teacher discussing my son’s picture. First grade children often draw interesting pictures. Interesting is the nice way to say, “what the heck is that supposed to be?” In my son’s case it wasn’t that difficult to figure out what he drew, it was a man nailed to a cross with blood dripping from the appropriate places. However, his explanation of what he drew did not include any of the standard Sunday school answers as to who was on the cross. Instead, he told his teacher that it was daddy on the cross. I guess with some minor stretching you could say that Jesus is God and God is our Abba and Abba is the equivalent of daddy but that’s not what he meant.
Why would anyone say their daddy was on a cross?
As my wife explained to a rather shocked teacher, this picture was not wrong, his daddy had been on a cross many times. You are probably just as shocked as she was. Of all the religious icons, a representation of Jesus on a cross is one of the most recognizable. Dave on a cross had not, until this picture, been considered a part of any religious depictions.
As those who have read my blog may know, in the past I made part of my living as an actor. One of the parts I played with some regularity was Jesus. I know Jesus wasn’t a white guy with dirty blond hair, but most of the paintings made him out to look just like that, so it worked out great for me.
Using special props, I created a crucifixion scene with a crown of thorns that, when placed on my head, appeared to cause me to bleed, nails that created the illusion of going through my wrists and legs, and a harness system that allowed me to hang from the cross without standing. My son knew that I was not the one who died on the cross but he also knew that I had been on a cross. He was proud of his dad’s stage work and wanted to draw a picture of it. Thankfully none of my kids asked me to talk to their class on career day, could you imagine the angry phone calls to the school that that would cause?
Sometimes I put myself on the cross even when I am not part of a play.
The years of a full head of long hair and a body that could survive the physical requirements of theatrical scenes involving being nailed to a cross are long gone. I know I wasn’t really being nailed to the cross but even my special effects version gave me a new appreciation for what Jesus went through as He tried to breathe while hanging. On top of that there were the times that things went wrong including someone missing the nail with the hammer and hitting my arm, someone actually making contact with the whip and… I digress.
I may not be on the cross in my plays anymore, but often I put myself on the cross as part of my view of sin. I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to accept grace and unconditional love. I have set up my own set of ways to deal with my sins. Like the whips used on Jesus’ back, I beat myself up over and over again in my mind for things I have done. Like the crown of thorns on Jesus’ head, I perceive myself as not worthy of a real crown, the crown of life. Like the nails driven through Jesus’ arms and legs, I am attached to what I have done, unable to break free.
I am on the cross, Jesus took my place but I take it back.
I don’t know if this resonates with you but it does say a lot about me. I tell others about the love demonstrated on the cross and the forgiveness that they have in Jesus but when it comes to me, somehow I live in fear. I place myself on the cross and dole out the punishment even though Jesus has already taken it for me. I believe the father of lies and condemn myself when Jesus has already paid the price. He took my punishment, there is nothing more needed and nothing more I can add by punishing myself out of the fear of my debt not being fully paid.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18 (NIV)
I am being made perfect in love but it may take a lifetime to fully accept the perfect love that I have been given.