Christmas & Brueghel’s “Procession to Calvary”

The year was 1564, and Danish painter, Pieter Brueghel, is completing a perplexing work.  It will come to be known as “The Procession to Calvary”.

But there’s something most intriguing about this painting.  Like the “Where’s Waldo?” pictures (begun by Martin Handford in 1987), the observer has to diligently search Brueghel’s painting to even find Jesus carrying his cross to Calvary.  (The painting is printed below.  To save you some time, Jesus is in the very middle.)

Unlike most depictions of Christ’s procession to his crucifixion, Brueghel portrays the event as an almost non-event.   This historical event that would serve as the single most significant moment in human history is not even noticed by most of the figures in Brueghel’s painting.  In other words, for them it’s simply “another day at the office.”

There is most likely a great deal of historical accuracy regarding Brueghel’s painting.  Many watched as Christ was making his way to Calvary, but, no doubt, many more simply carried on with their day.  After all, Roman crucifixion was a common form of execution at the time.

So, what does this have to do with Christmas?

Brueghel reminds us of how easily Jesus simply goes unnoticed.

Lists, recipes, shopping, family, deadlines, travel – you name it – dominate our time, crowding out intimate, individual focus on Christ during this busy time of year.

Historian, Terry Glaspey, writes, “In The Procession to Calvary, one must look closely or miss the main point.  The unfolding of God’s plan is taking place amid all the hustle and bustle of ordinary life.  And isn’t that how the spiritual world usually interacts with our own?  Brueghel reminds us that we must pay attention if we are to see the divine story of redemption hidden in the midst of our own story.”

This Christmas, may we strive ever so diligently to slow down and notice, meditate upon – “pay attention” to – the manger, and the hope it represents.

Merry Christmas, St. Nick

Procession to Calvary - Brueghel


The Terrifying Side of Jesus

Author, Philip Yancey, once wrote the following describing how he felt as he wrote his award-winning book, The Jesus I Never Knew:

“The Jesus I got to know in writing this book is very different is very different from the Jesus I learned about in Sunday School. In some ways he is more comforting; in some ways more terrifying.”

The first time Jesus came, he came as Savior.  The Bible says the next time Jesus comes he’ll come as Judge.  (cf. 2 Timothy 4:1)

Writing to those who do not know Christ, the author of Hebrews wrote,

“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (10:31)

The Amplified version of the Bible renders it this way:

It is a fearful (formidable and terrible) thing to incur the divine penalties and be cast into the hands of the living God!”

So, the Bible says that if we’ve never put our faith in Christ, it will be a terrifying experience to face Him the millisecond after death, or when Christ returns – whichever happens first.

If you’ve never professed your faith in Jesus Christ please consider doing so.  Consider the claims of Christ.  Investigate for yourself the reliability of the Gospels and the Resurrection.

Regardless of where you stand theologically, there’s one thing about which we can all agree:  one day we all will die, every one of us.  In fact, the Bible says there is a day appointed for our death – followed by judgment.  When we die, what do you think is on the other side?

Should the Bible be true (and I am convicted that it is), are you ready for that day?

“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  (Hebrews 10:31)

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick