When I think back to the images that come to mind at this time of year I'm surprised by some and not by others. Being the son of an officer I can still feel the malaise and frustration of getting up so early for sunrise service. If my sisters or I said “do we have to go,” dad would busy himself with getting ready and mom would give us that look that got us out of bed.
Still, for me being an artist, certain images do come to mind. As a young teenager in New Jersey I was struck by the crocuses blooming through the snow. Or in Colorado, watching the sun rise in the mountains. But, the strangest image I recall was a banana tree.
My parents return appointment to Puerto Rico was as the corp officers to the Ponce Corp. our home was on the same property as the corp. Next to the front porch of the house we had some large plants, including one banana tree. It fascinated me. During the rainy season I would sit under its' broad leaves. It was like sitting under an umbrella. For such a small tree, though, it took a lot of care. To keep it healthy we had to constantly remove the “suckers.” Off shoots of the main tree. If we didn't, most of the trees' energy would go into feeding them and it wouldn't produce fruit. When it bloomed we'd let the next sucker grow but kept pruning the rest. Once the fruit was harvested we waited a few days then cut down the tree altogether. If left to stand the tree would rot. The new sucker would grow up to replace the old tree.
But, why my association with Easter? It was for two reasons. First of all, we all know of Christ talking about bearing fruit. This tree was labor intensive, since those suckers kept popping up all the time. If allowed to go wild we'd have a tangle of trees, but no fruit. Its' energy would be wasted. However, more importantly, for the tree to reach its' full potential it had to die. That stuck in my head ever since I learned that.
So too did Christ. God wanted us to inherit eternal life, but we could never do it. Our sin sapped us of our ability to reach him. A sacrifice was needed. One with no blemish(suckers) and that was Christ. But, for us to have the gift of eternal life He had to die(be cut down). That constant cycle of the banana tree, for me, serves to remind me of the lengths that God went to, to save me. His resurrection was my salvation. But, his death is what I am reminded of all the time. It humbles me before Him. It is why I created this image below.
As an artist I've seen most of the artwork done on the subject of Easter. Because of my preference for the crucifixion I've seen all the famous paintings about it. Some years ago a thought came to me. That being, “I've seen paintings of Christ carrying the cross, on it and being taken off it, but never one of Him being raised on it.” So, as a gift to honor His sacrifice, I started to create the piece you see here. It took three months of research before I put pen to paper.
There were several points I worked into it to convey the importance of His death. First of all the details. How did they raise the cross, being nailed instead of tied, what did the Romans wear and what were their ranks. All this I did, first, to show the pain they put him through. More so then normal. The Romans I show are all in different ranks to point out that Christ died for everyone. The pose was of the U.S. Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima to point out that he died for everyone from that point on throughout all of history. Christ is in all black to show that He took on the sins of all mankind. He calls out in pain, the only time he voices it. Though, not in physical pain, but the pain of God turning away and the clouds . Hence, the title “Eloi!” Still, in all this there is a halo on Him. Christ is still God. He was without sin, but He took it on to sacrifice it. All so that we could be called sons and daughters of God should we confess our sins and accept Christ. Altogether, the piece reminds us that God is in “everything.” From the smallest detail to the overall message.
As we know, when every detail of His prophesied death was met He stated that he was thirsty. Taking a drink of vinegar from the offered sponge He died(Matt 19: 28-30). His death was but the first step in our salvation. And, yes, His resurrection was the important. Yet, without that death, there would be no eternal life for us at all. So, I implore, celebrate the gift of life he gave us. But, never forget the price He paid.