One of the things that sits on my desk at home is an eight-inch-long nail. It sits next to a pair of dice. They are there to remind me of the price that Jesus paid for my salvation. After all it would take a sizable nail to hold a person to a wooden cross. And the dice...the Roman soldiers gambled for Jesus clothing as they waited for Jesus and the two criminals to die so they could finish their workday and go home.
This nail is fairly smooth, with a sharp, pointed end. But the nails that were used to hold Jesus to the cross had been used countless times before. They were not smooth nor very pointed. They probably still had blood on them from the last few people they had been used on to hold them to a cross. Their condition didn't make any difference to the Roman guards. As long as the nails worked it didn't matter what shape they were in. The people the nails were used on were just going to die anyway. There was little respect for those who were to be crucified, many of whom had no family to stand watch or claim their bodies after they died.
When I look at the dice, I can hear them rattling as they are shaken and then thrown. Part of a Roman soldiers pay, if they had crucifixion duty was to gamble for the guilty persons goods. It was one of the perks if you could call it that. Especially if the one being crucified had no family who would claim them. We know the soldiers gambled for Jesus possessions, but they cast lots for Jesus tunic because it was one piece of fabric and there were no seams. That would have had considerable value in those days.
All of this seems quite barbaric, and really it is. Crucifixion is really death by suffocation. The guards knew just where to put the nails to cause the most pain and discomfort. It was thankless work and you truly had to be cut out of special fabric to be able to perform this detail and not go mad. It must have gotten old, listening to people yelling and screaming in pain and agony. It must have been difficult to listen to the weeping of family members and friends as the soldiers waited to finish their jobs. You needed a calloused heart and iron constitution for this duty.
Perhaps you think I have gone round the bend writing about this so close to Christmas, but the reality is, this is why Jesus came. Jesus didn't leave the splendor and majesty of heaven just for a 33-year tour of the earth. He was there for creation and He knew what was on the earth. Jesus came to earth to live as we live, temptation and all. There was no wall of protection around Him. Jesus spent countless hours in prayer, staying connected to the father, and living in His will. That is an example He has set for us as well. Jesus came to pay the ransom for our sins. He came to pay the price so that we have the opportunity to spend all of eternity with Him in heaven. There was no sugar coating what would happen to Jesus. He came anyway.
As He wrestled in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had a choice. He asked the Father if there was another way. If what He was about to endure could happen differently. But there was a point when the battle was won...for us. Jesus reached the point where He could say, not my will Father, but yours. Had Jesus walked away from the garden that night there would have been no payment for our sins. Jesus would have gone back into heaven and we would still be in bondage to sin that we can't extricate ourselves from. Instead, Jesus chose the nails, one holding His feet and one in each wrist.
Jesus set an example for us to the very end of His life. He spoke seven times as He hung on the cross. Everything from asking God to forgive those who had convicted Him and sentenced Him to crucifixion,
all the way to telling everyone within earshot He was finished...done. He had done every single thing that had been asked of Him. And he had not sinned, not even once. It would have been easy to focus on the nails. The pain had to be excruciating. He chose the nails anyway. Because He loved us then and He loves us now and will always. He chose the nails instead of comfort. He chose the nails because He knew we could not save ourselves.
As I sit writing, right now, I can see the nail. I try to imagine what it must have been like, but I have no reference point for that sort of pain or suffering. I only know that because Jesus chose the nails, I don't have to. Because Jesus chose the nails, there is abundant life now and eternal life waiting after this life is over. All because Jesus chose the nails.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W