For the past eight centuries, European paintings that depict Christ’s crucifixion and modern movies about Jesus’ life have traditionally portrayed our Lord as a nearly naked man registering no trace of pain or emotion. As a matter of fact, He looks like He’s sleeping with his arms stretched out and his feet standing, (not hanging) on a cross. Many images show little or no blood “which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:27-28) Most old and modern paintings and almost every cinematic crucifixion scene (except for the Passion of the Christ) show just another man offering a “watered down” sacrifice of Himself for every soul of humanity.
The mores of old Europe and early American culture dictate that blood be removed from works of art because it lacks “good taste,” as if Christ’s body is being presented for a PG-rated movie. But if you went back in time to witness the true Crucifixion, you wouldn’t see Jesus as those who saw Him as a Rabbi, Miracle worker, Teacher, Consoler, Savior and the Son of God. You wouldn’t recognize Him due to blood covering a majority of his body, starting with the crown of thick, long thorns which wrapped around His entire head where there is an enormous supply of blood. His wrists are impaled by long, sharp spikes, while his arms are hung above Him at 70 degrees above his shoulders. His back was beaten so thoroughly, He could not have possibly pushed His body up on both feet, driven through by an enormous thick nail – just to take a sip of air without rubbing it against the rugged wooden post behind Him. Alone, naked, shamed by spectators spitting, yelling, taunting Him to come down from the cross. His mouth is wide open, straining for breath. His eyes are blinking harshly, not only to rid them of blood and sweat but to try taking in unimaginable pain. How could Jesus keep a “straight face” with all He endured – taking all of the sins of man upon Himself, and yelling, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”(Mathew 27:45)
Our Churches are a lot like these “gentle” depictions of the Our Savior’s Sacrifice – lukewarm, indifferent and compromising. Its depictions of God dying make a viewer wonder if His death was “no big deal.” The Crucifixion was extremely graphic. In the case of Christ, glory looked graphic. He looked like he had been through hell. The truth was that he was experiencing the hells of every man who had lived and will live.
Most art that illustrates the Crucifixion doesn’t represent Christ as it should have been. Christ didn’t go to the cross to stand and sleep; He came to suffer physically and have every man’s sin poured out on Him for six hours so that we could be close to Him. I don’t believe any artist could portray that much love, grace and mercy.