Let me show you a picture of the Crucifixion of Christ:
In many ways, it is typical of many other Crucifixion art. The disciples of Jesus are at Christ’s feet. The two thieves are at his sides. Several onlookers gaze at him, shocked, while others ignore him. The sky is dark, yet Christ seems illuminated anyway.
Basically? It is a picture of the Crucifixion.
Now, let me tell you the story behind this picture…
First, do you notice the odd angle of this painting? It’s a little… different, isn’t it? It makes it unique. After all, most painters will paint Christ front and center, whereas Mihály Munkácsy shows it a little skewed. When you first view the image, you probably first look at the people to the left, and their gaze leads you right to Christ, who seems to be illuminated by a special light, even in this scene which is relatively shrouded in darkness.
This was the image in Mihály Munkácsy’s mind when he started working on this masterpiece. According to the students that worked with him, he would often pace the floor before madly using his hands to put the paint on the canvas.
Yet, he also was big on using models. He would take photographs of people and also have sketches made in order to make these large paintings.
Now, there was no models that he could find that showed Jesus in the position that you see in this painting. So, what did he do?
He had himself crucified, instructing his students to take photographs of him while he was on the cross!!
So that pain that you see on Jesus’s face in the painting? That is the pain that the artist tried to convey from actually being crucified himself.
When I first heard this, I was horrified.
Who would actually do such a thing?
Why would anybody crucify themselves willingly?
And then that little voice said in the back of my head: Jesus did.
And He willingly did it for all of us.
Now! Sometimes, I think we can get too used to the idea of Christ being crucified.
After all, we use the Cross to identify ourselves as being Christians. Many of us have crucifixes in our home. The Cross can seem like such a normal thing, we can sometimes forget how awful a death it is.
Yet, if we were given the chance to be crucified, many of us would balk at the mere notion, and understandably so. It is an awful death, and we shouldn’t forget that.
And yet, Christ gladly died that way so He could save us all.
Now that you know the backstory, take a look at this painting again. Click it if you want to see it in greater detail.
Take a very good look at it.
Jesus Christ loves us that much.
16For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.