Service of Nails
At the Service of Nails at our church on Good Friday, everyone is given a large nail as they enter. Then at the appropriate time in the service, the congregants walk to the altar and throw their nails into a metal bucket. The noise of the nails hitting the bucket resounds throughout the sanctuary. It is a very moving moment and the sound goes on and on and on as the worshippers come to the altar and throw their nails.
From my perspective in the choir loft, I have a close-up view of the process. It is interesting to note that a number of people bend down to put their nails in the bucket as if they are trying to minimize the ringing of their nail hitting the bucket. But for me, part of the impact of the service is that it is my sin/s that drove the nails into the cross, and if I were to minimize the sound, it would be as if I were trying to minimize the enormity of the fact that Jesus' agonizing death on the cross was for me.
CROWN OF THORNS
"The soldiers, having braided a crown from thorns, set it on his head, threw a purple robe over him…" John 19:2 (TM)
While visiting in Edmonton, Alberta, we spent some time at the Muttart Conservatory, with its perfectly beautiful collection of plants and flowers—both tropical, temperate and arid, along with a show room that changes periodically. In the arid section, we noticed the crown of thorns cactus, which brought a graphic picture to our minds of the pain endured by Christ before and during His crucifixion. But on the day of our visit, the torturous thorns were adorned with delicate red blossoms.
Christ's substitutionary death on the cross, the painful, suffering humiliation, was the propitiation, the payment for my sin and for yours, by the spotless Lamb of God. But from His drops of blood my redemption has blossomed. Because He died, I can live, through the mercy and grace of God, and my faith reaches up to meet the Love that stretches toward each one of us.
"Saving is all his idea and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It's God's gift from start to finish! We don't play the major role. If we did, we'd probably go around bragging that we'd done the whole thing." Ephesians 2:8,9 (TM)
A friend of ours has a teen-aged son who, due to an instant of poor judgment, was terribly burned. Following months of surgeries, therapy, and pain, the young man is making slow, but steady progress. Now the bills are coming due. Although the father is hopeful that insurance will cover many of the expenses, the financial cost will be substantial. But the father, with a film of tears over his eyes, said to us that the financial strain is nothing compared to the life of his son.
When Jesus hung on the cross so many years ago, his life was the price paid for my sin. There was no operation, no therapy that would bring me to God's standard of holiness; only the sinless Son of Man, who came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mt. 20:28 [NIV]), could make the sacrifice that offers salvation to me. But Jesus, knowing the pain He would have to endure, was obedient to the will of God the Father, thinking that His sacrifice was nothing compared to what would be gained.
"When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him." Lk. 23:33a (NIV)
While visiting our Kansas daughter and son-in-law, we had the opportunity to visit a marvelous exhibit of treasures from the Kremlin. Many of the displays were of religious icons of one kind or another, almost all fabulously encrusted with gold and precious jewels. The grandeur was almost mind-numbing in its magnificence as we walked from one to the next.
When I see displays such as that one, or see beautiful steeples on top of church spires, or lovely pieces of jewelry crafted in the shape of a cross, I sometimes wonder what we have made of the cruel, wooden instrument of torture that was used by the Romans as a method of execution.
And yet, because of the victory that Easter brings, the cross has become a symbol of God's love, of Jesus' sacrifice, of reconciliation and pardon. Only love of that magnitude could transform something as hideous as Golgotha's cross into something as beautiful as my salvation, encrusted with the jewels of hope, grace, and eternal life.
"He is not here; he has risen, just as he said." Matthew 28: 6a(KJ)
As we stood watching the sun rise over the ocean on Easter morning, the minister paused in his remarks and had us all turn to enjoy the magnificence of the sight. Once the glorious ball of fire rose above the horizon, its pathway was emblazoned across the water. As I watched, it seemed to be reaching directly to me. I know that each person who marveled at that spectacular sunrise had the identical experience. To each of us, it appeared that the reflection that spanned the ocean was directed particularly to each individual.
Pondering on that phenomenon made me aware of how the message of Easter, the message of the risen Savior, has both an individual and a universal significance. Though the death of the spotless Lamb of God was for the sins of all the world, until we acknowledge that the sacrifice of God's Son was for us as individuals, we have not fully appreciated its meaning. Until the resurrection account reaches from the heart of God to deep within each of our own hearts, it is just a story. But when we bow in humble acceptance of God's wondrous provision for our sin, then the resurrection sunrise inaugurates not only a day, but also a way of life that seeks to honor the Lord. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!