A couple years ago at my college, a student group put on an event to educate students about pornography and the sex industry. I paced through it, thinking I had already seen all this before. The exhibit opened with scientific facts about the chemical effects of pornography on the brain, showing how it rewires our mental pathways to crave porn.
Heard them before.
Then there was a room of testimonies, people shared how porn had damaged their lives and relationships. As sincere and moving as these stories were, I had heard them before too. I mean, these addiction stories were basically my own.
But then we moved to the last room.
On the wall was a painting. Eye level. About 4×3 feet. At first glance, it seemed like a typical crucifix painting. There hung Jesus on the cross, bleeding and ashamed.
But then you looked a little lower.
And then you realized that he was not wearing any garment to politely cover the Savior’s genitalia. There was no loin cloth to protect the Lord from disgrace.
It was jarring to realize I was looking at Jesus’ penis.
In many ways, the fact that artists have typically covered Jesus up while hanging on the cross has done a disservice to our perception of His scope of atonement. We are used to seeing Him, battered and bloody, yes, but at least with a shred of decency left and a towel wrapped around his midsection.
One of my theology professors would always say we postmodern people do theology like this: And then he would crouch and cover up his crotch, like an embarrassed child who had jumped out of the bath and been caught by the babysitter. We will talk about God in relation to anything but our genitals.
We try to ‘clean up’ the crucifixion.
Today I got curious and checked for myself. Sure enough, all four gospels tell the same story:
Matthew 27:35 When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
Mark 15:24 And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.
Luke 23:34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
John 19:23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic.
Historians have pointed out that a crucifixion was not only a torturous execution, but also a shameful humiliation. That’s why victims would always be crucified naked: One last insult to injury.
Now, why is it so important that Jesus was crucified naked?
Throughout the millennia, artists have tried to restore to Jesus His dignity by covering up the shameful bits. They have censored the truth of scripture in order to protect young eyes.
The reason my school displayed the painting was to remind us that, while Jesus has absorbed all our sin and wrongdoing, He has also absorbed all of our shame. He was not covered up in order to maintain His dignity while dying on the tree; He was stripped and exposed, so that even until the end His atoning work would be seen as victorious, even over our sexuality and shame.
J. Vernon McGee writes:
He was crucified naked. It is difficult for us in this age of nudity and pornography to comprehend the great humiliation He suffered by hanging nude on the cross. They had taken His garments and gambled for ownership. My friend, He went through it all, crucified naked, that you might be clothed with the righteousness of Christ, and so be able to stand before God throughout the endless ages of eternity.
Something I have been thinking through recently is how I too have dichotomized my sexuality from my spirituality. As American Christians, I feel like this is the norm. We go to church over here and think and talk about sex over here. And if I looked at porn, I hid it from God until enough time had passed that I could go and safely confess.
But what I have realized recently is that this is wrong. When I begin to see my sexual desires as something good, something given to me by God, it is easier to align them with His will. When I realize that I don’t have to hide my desires from Him, but rather give them over to Him, it becomes easier to escape temptation and have peace that I can trust Him with my desires. I can trust Him to bring me a wife in His timing, and I don’t have to fear that He’ll never give me one because I have these bad desires.
I think many of my struggles with pornography came from this thought that ‘sex is bad, dirty, and shameful. I need to hide these thoughts from God.’ A lot of them came from a fear that my desires for sex were bad, and therefore I was a bad person. But God loves healthy sexuality. In reality, Jesus has taken all of my shame and all my twisted views of sex to the cross and destroyed them when He was crucified naked.
He has redeemed our perverted views of sexuality. He has taken every last centerfold hanging on the walls of our minds and torn them to shreds.
He was crucified naked so we need not be ashamed anymore.
Dude, This is your best post yet!
I have PTSD from the J Vernon McGee quote, however.
You must download and listen to “The Gates of The Temple” by Richard Rohr. Most brilliant teaching on all that you unpack here.
You are a good man. p.s. I got your text weeks back about struggling and I was swamped and in a funky depressive place myself. Would still love to help and walk with you in whatever way might be helpful. Jesus can take you past this toward something more.
Love you brother,
Awesome and really interesting article. Thank you for writing it. As a gay person who struggles with porn it would be awesome if I could also say that it’s ok as these desires also come from God and that I should hand the problem over to him, trusting somehow I’ll end up in a loving and monogamous relationship with a man at some stage. That might be a bit more controversial, though!
Revolutionary! Great one!
Reblogged this on ethan renoe and commented:
Post from a few months ago.
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Thanks for your post Ethan! It’s a good reminder about letting God in on ourselves entirely(including our sexuality). I’m a male that experiences same-sex attraction yet am in the slim percentage of those that don’t identify as gay while aiming to live righteously. For years, I did what you mentioned and hid this from others and God. But that only piles on shame. Being able to open up and be vulnerable with struggles both with God and others is key in order to do like you said, “to align them to His will by giving them over to Him, it becomes easier to escape temptation.” God is good at taking what’s broken and ashes and making something beautiful!
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Unveiled and uninhibeted as it was in the beginning my love
The veil if interpretation and shame is what has separated you and I
We should never have chosen to believe in shame and blame$
Remember the pain in YOUR secret garden
Remember how you chose to live alone(separated)
And hide your pain behind a veil remember we created the sunrise to remind us how to start new dnatree.blogspot
Consider that the Roman soldiers were experts in sadism. In great likelihood, Jesus was stripped, flogged, raped (what better way to humilate a Jew whose religion expressly forbad such sexual contact), paraded naked through town carrying his own cross beam, hoisted on the crucifix post, and then kept alive for as long as possible in order to prolong the agony. the “typical” crucifixion would last 3 days–Jesus lasted 3 hours. It was a combination of terror (for the populace) and humilation (for the victim). How many thousands (millions?) of unfortunate people sufferred this form of execution? Jesus wasn’t the only one.
Wonderful post! Thanks, Ethan!
Very early paintings of Jesus on the Cross had his penis fully erect. Reason was that he, like many men, had a death erection. It is interesting that male in ancient Hebrew is zakar (Genesis 1:27) which means sharp, penetrating point as in erect penis. If Jesus Christ had a death erection on the Cross, then He penetrated Hell and defeated death as all man and all God. An astounding thought.
With Christ in me who was the most manly man the world has ever known, then I can penetrate anything that opposes what I am responsible for as a man. Men go first in their manly faith and violently advance the Kingdom of God. Then our wives and children follow.
A note on children following their dad’s faith.The last words of the Old Testament say it plainly: “Look, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome Day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise, I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
A man who had the heart of a father for his children (current and future children) makes the next generation powerful in faith and deed. It takes the Man of men in him to make him unapologetically zakar in every area of his life, particularly for his children. I was 9 when God gave me a heart for my future children. I now watch my 16 grandchildren and see the fruit of the heart God gave me for my children.
Dr Derek Prince made the point back in the 1970s that Him being crucified naked was part of the “Great Exchange.” Our Lord died naked, hungry, and thirsty; “in need of all things.” He took our lack and poverty on Himself; and it died on the cross so we could have His abundance. (not to be confused with the unbiblical “prosperity” teaching)