By the time the sun set on Good Friday, Marshall Johnson had spent 12 hours on a 12-foot-high cross in observance of Christ’s crucifixion.

Dozens of friends and strangers had stopped to see the 53-year-old Fortville man in a tiring pose, descending from the cross only a few times to stretch his legs and back.

“It’s amazing that somebody would do this,” said Robin Emerton.

She had been drawn to the scene with her daughter, Caitlyn, who saw Johnson on her bus ride home from Pendleton Heights High School.

Johnson installed the cross in front of a home in the 8600 block of South Indiana 67. The homeowner, Golda McDaniel, had granted Johnson permission to set up the cross, a small bench where people could pray and a spot for parking.

Handmade signs along the highway advised 55 mph drivers to slow down and look at Johnson. Among those parking on the berm were Mario Rangel of Anderson.

“I think it’s very cool because it’s what we read in the Bible and it’s what we believe,” Rangel said.

Of those who pulled into the driveway and parking spaces, most showed respect for Johnson. One teenage girl asked what the cross “had to do” with the Easter bunny. Other passers-by honked car horns or pulled in for a closer look.

As one of three Pendleton Heights students approaching the cross, Taylor Merchant asked, “Is that a real person up there?”

She walked up to Johnson with her classmates, Alli VanWinkle and Shian Mendenhall.

Afterward, Mendenhall said, “I think it’s real cool. It’s an eye-opening experience.”

Johnson was hoping to bring the non-churched to Christ.

“If just curious sinners come out and see me, maybe it’ll lay the conviction of them,” said Johnson, a cabinetmaker.

The married father of four came to Christianity four years ago after a life of sin involving drugs and alcohol, he said. He attends REAL Community Church in Ingalls.

Johnson started the morning in temperatures hovering around the mid-30s. A propane heater kept him warm. He wore only a loincloth and a crown of thorns. Johnson did not eat but was given two cups of coffee.

One of his sons, Michael, and a church member, Russ Ruggles, posed as Roman sentries. Also on hand was Johnson’s wife, Annie, and church members.

He descended for a few minutes — once about 7 a.m. when he was light-headed and at least three times to stretch. Johnson didn’t talk to anyone as he moved his arms and legs, keeping in character to set the somber scene.

One middle-aged woman dropped to her knees in front of the cross and began praying.

At the foot of the cross, visitor Corey Schmitz explained to his four young children the significance of Johnson’s act. Schmitz translated the sign above Johnson’s head reading INRI or “king of the Jews” to his children.

“The youngest boys didn’t really understand. They asked why is he up there,” said Tammy Larussa, who came with the Schmitz family. “So we explained what Jesus did for us. It’s pretty amazing that somebody is willing to do this to really put it to life.”

Contact Scott Miley: 648-4230,

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