A picture is worth a thousand words. You’ve heard that statement many times, but it’s not always true, is it? The statement could imply that a picture says all that needs to be said, with no further need for interpretation. But we have all seen many photos that cause us to ask “what is going on here?” Captions are often necessary for us to understand what’s going on, lest we misunderstand or misinterpret them.

The dreadful “picture” of Jesus hanging on a cross was an image that some subjected to faulty (even wicked) interpretation. In Matthew 27:42, we read of the chief priests, teachers of the law, and elders who were mocking Jesus, sneering “He saved others, but he cannot save himself!”

To them, this was merely a question of ability. “If he had the ability to save himself, surely he would”, they thought. But their statement merely exposed their own hearts, not the Savior’s lack of ability. All this shows is that if the lives of these so-called leaders of Israel were on the line, they would have done everything in their power to preserve themselves.

Such is not the case with our dear Savior. Jesus himself had said “no one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down and power to take it up again” (Jn 10:18).

The bloody crucifixion of Christ had nothing to do with his powerlessness. It had everything to do with what the “teachers of the law” did not have: sacrificial love. Thus, their interpretation could not be more defective. It was precisely because he lovingly refused to save himself that he could save others.

The sad thing about this is that there was a plain-to-see, giant-print caption that accompanied this dark picture. That caption consisted of all of Jesus’ teaching up to this climactic point. In fact, the caption was the entire Old Testament (Lk 24:25-27). In short, love was the caption (1 Jn 4:10). We could say that this picture requires far more than a thousand words of explanation, but each word testifies of and points us back to what, or really Who, we see in the picture.

The leaders of Israel, in rejecting Christ, rejected the Father and his love for them. My prayer, this Passion Week, is that you will embrace all that God tells you about his Son, that you will see Jesus more clearly; that when you see the cross, you would not see a powerless victim that evokes hollow pity, but the Sovereign Creator who loves you and laid down his life for you. Praise Him!