It seems that at times I have taken our Christian celebrations for granted. Oh, I appreciate them for their remembrance of all Jesus did for us. But, I have not always contemplated the intimate details in a more personal way.
Admittedly, while growing up in the Christian Reformed Church, I found the lengthy form reading prior to Communion a bit too formal, perhaps even a bit legalistic. Instead of focusing on what Christ did for me, I would lose the meaning as a child by anxiously waiting for it all to be done. I didn’t understand. Now, missing a CRC nearby, and as a member of a fundamental biblical Baptist church, I appreciate the brevity of Communion with its focus on Scripture and Jesus’ words, His sacrifice, and the time for self-contemplation. Out of these recent thoughts, came a poem and personal contemplative blog.
Have you ever seen or held an old-fashioned iron nail? The history of nails is fascinating, but not until the latter 19th century did we begin producing round cut nails by machine. Bronze nails have been dated as far back as 3000 b.c., but eventually the Romans began using harder iron for their nails.
Since the earliest nail was made, each hand-forged nail has been pounded out individually by a blacksmith from iron heated in the fire. The nails are typically square, flat on four sides, tapering to a point at the other end. A search online brings up images of such nails from a hundred plus years ago all the way back to include Roman crucifixion nails. Those old Roman nails were ominous-looking objects about 5-7 inches long and half an inch wide at the top…and doubt I’d be wrong to call them spikes.
It makes me shudder to think of the damage one of those Roman nails could do to a person’s flesh and bone. It also seems that a heart hardened to the cruelty inflicted was required for the job. And that was after the condemned criminal had been flogged mercilessly with the flesh torn and stripped from his back until he was hardly recognizable. I did not go to see Mel Gibson‘s movie, “The Passion of the Christ.” I know I could not have watched it for those very reasons. There’s a movie playing in my mind from reading the passages in our Holy Bible, and I prefer that familiarity.
But, the referenced images above are those which typically come to mind as we contemplate Jesus’s crucifixion during the Jewish Passover. Condemned under trumped-up blasphemy charges by Jerusalem’s Jewish synagogue leaders, yet found faultless by Rome’s representative, the crowd defiantly yelled, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” as they clamored for the release of a rightfully jailed criminal, they demanded Jesus take said criminal’s place on the cross.
And, just as we think “Oh, the shame of it all!” we also wonder how an innocent man could be condemned to such a horrid death, one who healed their neighbors, and who spoke wisdom into their lives. They did not understand His life’s purpose. Yet, here I am, holding that nail and pounding it in deeper with every little sin I’ve committed.
And, it humbles us even more to know Jesus went to that cross willingly. The Son of God willingly died! He took our place…and bore our shame…to redeem us from our petty and monumental sins. For “we all, like sheep, have all gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6 NIV)
Yes, we have each gone astray, perhaps in only minor and seemingly insignificant ways, but our perfect God still calls sin what it is: “sin.” To know that God loved you and me, before we even came to be, and that He sent His only Son away from a perfect heavenly home to this fallen world for our salvation is simply overwhelming. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) And I am forever grateful for such a gift of love…and that He came to shower you and me with His limitless mercy and grace.
Gripping the iron between my fingers
I feel its cold and lifeless form,
And it’s at this point my wandering thoughts
Flash back in time to another day.
Would I have taken that nail in my hand
When before me lay a man condemned,
Bruised and beaten, battered and bloody
A man despised, forsaken and worn?
But, in fact, I did. I did take that nail.
With hammer in hand I raised my arm,
To pound that nail into flesh and bone
And heard its ring bring pain and anguish.
Deep in my heart, I knew it was wrong.
He’d done no crime, no offense or harm.
But with every strike my sins came to mind
For I’m the one who nailed him to the cross.
And yet with each pound his face was serene
No anger or hate… but a tender deep love.
With tears I confessed, “My sin nailed You there!”
Yet He replied, “It’s for you I died.”
“It’s for you I came. For you I suffered.
For your very soul I gave my all…”
Death will not gain the heart of faith,
The heart that to Him forever is pledged.