My mom, Tambo, likes to say, “Fear is the darkroom where negatives are developed.” Ah, photography as a metaphor for ultimate reality! When I was an ankle biter, my mother – a pro photographer – would use good, old film as opposed to digital technology. To develop her pictures, she would extract the negatives from her camera, which in turn, would be treated with chemicals in a darkroom that transmogrified her negatives into clear pictures.
When Paul writes that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God,” the word he uses is eikon. That is the nearest ancient Greek equivalent to our word “photograph.” Jesus is the photograph of God. Jesus declared, “…If you have seen me you have seen the Father…” (John 14:9). He is the spitting image of His Abba. Jesus is the eikon, the photograph of the invisible God. No wonder the sky went dark when He was crucified. From 12:00pm to 3:00pm, the world was engulfed in a sevenfold horror of midnight darkness.
In this darkroom on Calvary, Jesus developed the picture of a God who loves us to death.
Crucifixion was so negative, so dehumanizing, that you weren’t allowed to be hung on a cross if you were a Roman citizen. Jesus knew well what crucifixion meant. When he was 11, Judas the Galilean led a rebellion against Rome. He raided the royal armory at Sepphoris, a mere four miles from Nazareth, Jesus’ stomping grounds. Two thousand of said rebels were crucified on crosses on the roadside, which must have been etched like a picture on the boy Jesus’s brain.
Because Jesus’ message was subversive and, for all appearances, politically charged (He was always talking about a new kingdom), He was expected to rebel against the powers that be, overthrow the heel of the Romans, oust the eagle and lead a military op with the zealots and dagger bearers to dethrone Caesar. The light of the world would lead the Jews out of the darkroom of fear; their occupation would be ended; Israel would be the free peoples, and Christ would take Caesar’s place as king!
One problem. Jesus got Himself killed. To be pinned to a cross meant you’d been overthrown by the Romans you, yourself tried to topple. For all intents and purposes, Jesus failed. Or so they thought…Little did anyone realize, Jesus didn’t conquer the Earth by bathing the world in the blood of His enemies but by bathing His enemies in the world with His own blood. At the place of the Skull (Golgotha), Jesus wore a crown of thorns on His skull when He crushed the skull of the serpent (protoevangelion). There must be a metaphor in there somewhere. Jesus – that shattering personality – was the ultimate iconoclast king.
He was the photograph of the king over all the Earth, who was not some cosmic tyrant, but a God who is love itself.
Jesus did not wear a crown, that was a gemscape stuffed with moonbeam magic, but a crown of thorns. He ruled not from a golden throne but from a wooden cross. He had no signet ring for His fingers but nails in His hands. He demanded no subject kiss His feet, but rather, washed the feet of His subjects. Instead of calling down 12 legions of angels (a legion was the largest Roman military unit, made up of 6,000 troops, which equals 72,000 angels), He let the Roman Empire cart Him off to a cross where He found the kingdom of heaven! He had no sign above His head that read, “Charlemagne, King of the Francs,” or, “Henry, King of the English,” but rather a satirical, “Jesus, King of the Jews.” He wore not the purple robe of majesty but the purple robe of mockery. He wielded no golden scepter but was beaten over the head with a wooden scepter, while the Romans faux-hailed the King of the Jews.
What seemed Jesus’ darkest moment actually developed the clear picture of His Father, who is the King of kings and Lord of lords, who puts death to death, so we don’t have to be scared to death of death. No big deal. What seemed the darkest moment of fear – when the sky above Golgotha went Stygian – was actually the darkroom that developed the image of God!
When you don’t walk with the Lord, fear is the darkroom where negatives develop.
When you do walk with God, well, as Tambo the photographer likes to say: Life is like photography; we develop from the negatives. So learn a lesson from Jesus, God’s living, breathing 3D photograph in real time. He is proof of the proverb: Life is like a camera. Just focus on what’s important.
Capture the good times. Develop from the negative. And if things don’t work out, just take another shot.