I was eating breakfast with one of my sons and his daughter (a five year-old). I was wearing a muscle shirt (shut up!) that was exposing my one-and-only-tattoo. My son pointed to the tattoo and asked my granddaughter, “What’s this?”
She immediately said, “Jesus’ cross.” I looked at her and asked, “How do you know it’s Jesus’?” She pointed to the crown of thorns and said, “Because this is his headband.” The dead giveaway might be the drop of crimson blood hanging from one of the thorns. A bloody crown of thorns hanging on an empty cross will point to Jesus every time—especially for a five year-old Sunday School attendee.
I got my tattoo a few years ago when I was still working in an office on a daily basis. My boss was not keen on tattoos, so I had the ink artist put it high enough on my shoulder that it wouldn’t be revealed when I wear a short-sleeved shirt. I’m such a coward.
The Visual Testimony
Usually, the only time I wear a muscle shirt (shut up!) is when I’m riding my Harley. So, my Jesus crown of thorns and cross is not open for public consumption most of the time. So much for my brave, visual testimony.
I suppose I’m in good company. The Apostle Peter was really a coward when it came to witnessing to his relationship with Jesus as well. You may remember Jesus telling him that he (Peter) would deny him three times before the rooster crowed in the morning. Peter vehemently told Jesus that would never happen. Of course, it did, and Peter became famous for turning his back on Jesus so fast it would make one’s head spin. Peter was obviously afraid he’d be fitted for his own bloody headband by the Romans.
The Fear of Man
And that’s where a lot of us end up. We’re afraid. The real tragedy is that our fear is not of the Romans (nor anything nearly as powerful). We’re usually afraid of looking less than cool. Our trepidation is over the possibility that someone will think we’re weird, we might lose a friend, or that our status might be diminished in some way. It’s almost never (as in the case of Peter) that we might lose our own lives in the process.
You would think our real fear would be of God. After all, Jesus was clear about denying him. He is quoted by Matthew as having said, “whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:33) That’s not only eminently clear, it has its own punishment built into it. Who wants to be denied by the Christ? I know I don’t.
My only real consolation in all of this is that Jesus forgave Peter (John 21:15-19). If Peter is forgiven, my hope is strong that I can be forgiven as well. The real relief is that Jesus bore the bloody headband to demonstrate his love and forgiveness for puny deniers such as me.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently the pastor of Smith Chapel in Great Falls, VA.]