I’m not sure where the name came from; it was a little like the Frankenstein monster, but with finesse. The rear was from a 57-ish Chevy mail order kit and the front end was from a Chrysler Imperial. It was made of fiberglass and had been lengthened and widened into something that seemed suitable for the job of carrying too much weight. It had to; the load was to be excessive; batteries weighed a lot. When I was a small boy my father had built what might have been one of the very first electric cars. It had a big electric motor, four generators and 1400 pounds of automotive batteries under the hood. It was very fast and, except for the sound of rubber on pavement, absolutely silent.
Dad would take my brother and me on test drives around the neighborhood and as we whispered by the incredulous suburbanites who lived on the streets of our middle class neighborhood we would delightedly yell, “Take a picture – it’ll last longer!” OK, we were mouthy troublemaking kids but it was fun to see the look on the faces of the people as we swept by. These days I can think back and consider that we, as a people, take a lot of pictures. Why? Why aren’t we content to hold our precious moments in our memories and not worry about recording them? The reason is that the memory portion of our brains doesn’t work all that well, we lose things there.
Even the things we do remember get fuzzy after a while. Childhood friends in school photos seem to run together and we tend to remember things the way we wanted them to be rather than surround our recollections with the crystalline context of the way things really were. We favor the good things and let most of the bad stuff fade to black, we build inaccurate blocks of our pasts and call them the good old days. We take photographs to lock moments in time and preserve an instant against the frail workings of our faulty minds. Where were the photographers in AD 33? We need to have a moment preserved that happened before there was a method of doing so. Sure, we have the written word to take us to Calvary’s cross, but how much better to have had a few snapshots to pass around.
We open our Bibles and read the poignant descriptions of the crucifixion and of how our Lord died for our sins but after we read them, they immediately begin to get, “fuzzy.” James 1:23-24 tells us that, “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in the mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” Similarly; when we form the picture of Jesus bleeding on the cross to pay the debt that we, ourselves, owe, and then let it fade away; how much of an impact can it really be making on us? When we read the account of Jesus’ criminal death, are we reading the story of a guy who drew the short straw among the triune Godhead when it came to the plan of salvation, or are we really seeing the God of ages taking our punishment?
I’m sure that few of us would choose to hang a painting of the Saviour beaten beyond recognition, bleeding and bruised, barely able to stand, hanging on a wooden cross, chin upon His chest, gash in His side from a spear-thrust with blood flowing down to the ground in our living rooms or kitchen nooks. But that might be exactly what we need. Is it enough to try to come to the cross once a week on Sunday? Do we only play Christian and pretend that a weekly dose of piety is going to carry us through the week until we can get our next fix? Every day we need to wake up and see the death that God would have imposed upon us, were it not for His overflowing grace and love.
The only way to keep things in the right perspective and in clear focus is to have a picture, a picture that we can never have. The power of God is so immense that He can paint that picture on our hearts but then it’s up to us to not cover it up with our junk. The picture that God paints for us must be on prominent display in the gallery of our memory. God has given the Christian the picture we need because He knows that it lasts longer; longer than the hearing of the account, longer than reading the words. But even though God builds the picture in our minds, it is our responsibility to keep it central in our thinking. If we neglect to meditate on the sacrifice that God made by sending His Son to die for us, the importance begins to fade; to get fuzzy.
We have allowed the picture of Jesus on the cross to blur and the vivid horror of that picture has been transformed into something that now is only Jesus carrying a lamb on His shoulders. That’s a great image, don’t get me wrong, but we cannot forget that though the Lord does come after His lost sheep and carries us back to the path we need to be on, the important work was done in His dying on the cross. We might like to imagine that we are just like the innocent children that Jesus stands before with open arms but the memory that we need to keep on the cover of our photo albums is the one of the truly innocent Son of God, bruised, flesh torn from his bones, disfigured horribly and bleeding as a result of being punished for our transgressions. It is our bodies that deserved to be scourged, our blood that should have flowed; our lives that were owed as payment for violating God’s laws. Our guilt is what we should see every time we focus on the image of Jesus’ broken body.
This time of year we all turn our thinking to thankfulness and family gatherings. But are we giving God His due? There is one thing that we should always be thankful for; the picture that God gave us of the love He spent for our salvation. The picture of Jesus on the cross is both; the picture of God’s mercy and grace, as well as the brutal evidence of our sinfulness. One cannot be separated from the other. When we look on the picture of the crucifixion, we can no more remove our guilt from the setting any more than we can ignore the pleading, begging and tears that went into the, “happy,” family studio portrait. Every coin has two sides. God’s mercy and grace cannot be removed from the hearts of the very people who created the need for that mercy and grace.
Of all the things that we try to remember by snapping photos, the grace of God displayed in the crucifixion is the one thing that truly deserves our remembrance; it’s the thing that we need to take a picture of because it needs to last as long as possible. Of all the grace, mercy and blessings that are ours each day, the most important thing; the thing that allows us to take our next breath, is the life of Christ, given for us. If we forget everything else in this world, let us not forget the love of God sacrificed to pay our debt. The infinite love of God is such that we, each of us, should never forget all that God has done for us, but the sad thing is, is that we will if we don’t take a picture.
God is willing to freely give us the picture, the whole picture; the picture of Jesus living, working miracles, loving, dying, and rising again. He wants us to have it but it’s up to us to accept that picture, to place it in a place of honor in our lives and to keep it where we can always see it. Our actions are affected when we have the accurate picture of the genuine Jesus and when our actions are affected in this way; the actions we exhibit will most certainly be…
All for the Glory of Christ