I had never before heard the sound of a nail being driven into a cross before Friday night. And when I did, needless to say, I was none too pleased with how it sounded.
As Holy Week continues, Good Friday was filled with profound sadness in remembrance of Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross.
I think we often take for granted just how big a sacrifice Jesus made for us when his blood was shed for the forgiveness of our sins. What is the biggest sacrifice you’ve ever made? Do you tithe or give regular offerings at church? Do you volunteer your valuable time for the benefit of others? Have you given up eating something you enjoyed, drinking something so tasty, or ceased spending money on that which has dug its claws into you?
All of these are noble sacrifices, to be sure. But if you had the opportunity to lay down your life for random strangers, would you do it? Knowing that it wouldn’t be a quick, painless death but a gruesome, torturous one?
But the interesting fact about Jesus’ sacrifice is that it wasn’t for random strangers, but for his brothers and sisters. For us. In God’s holy family. And our sins helped nail our brother, our Lord and savior, to the cross.
In my previous entry, I had mentioned that the church I attend does a good job of placing you in the moment, giving you a feel for the way things unfolded in biblical times. While it can never truly replicate how things really occurred in Jesus’ day, the imagery does reach down deep inside your soul and tug on the strings of your heart.
On Thursday night, I described breaking bread and drinking wine with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in homage to the Last Supper. I then described escaping into the nave of the church where it was quiet and dark, save for a scattering of candles, to pray and reflect like Jesus did in the garden of Gethsemane before he was arrested. At the base of the stage was an imposing cross, an ominous reminder of the savage experience that awaited Jesus the next day.
Friday night, the congregation at my church received quite the wakeup call with an all-too real demonstration of what our sins really did to Jesus.
During the service, we were asked to reflect on what sins we were battling, and we were given a piece of paper on which to write them down. As the pastor shared passages from the Bible, detailing the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus, we all sat in our chairs, sin-filled papers still in our hands, and wondered what exactly we were going to do with them.
My best guess at the time was that we would be told to take the paper home with us and keep it in a conspicuous place this weekend where we could be reminded of what sins sent Jesus to the cross.
The church took it one step further in a more powerful way.
Row by row, as we would normally take communion, we approached the cross and were given a hammer and a nail, asked to nail our piece of paper — our sins, our guilty verdict, our death sentence — to the cross.
Talk about powerful imagery.
My fiancée and I were among the first to go up, which means I got an up-close and personal account of the first nails being driven into the cross.
Clank! Clank! Clank! echoed through the church as hammer hitting nail, metal striking metal, produced a sound much louder than I had anticipated.
I had always known consciously that Jesus paid the penalty of death for my sins, and that even though I wasn’t around 2,000 years ago driving the nails through His flesh, by my sins — my yet to be committed sins but the inevitable sins — I was directly responsible for his crucifixion. It was at that moment, though, as I positioned my paper and nail near the center of the cross, that I truly understood what it meant for my sins to be nailed to the cross. The metaphor was about as real as it got.
Sure, there was no body hanging, no screams of agony, no blood shed that night. But there was pain. And it firmly filled the hearts of every man, woman and child swinging the hammer. And as I sat back and watched the long line of sinners approach the cross, hearing the hammer hitting nails more audibly in my head than was probably actually occurring, I couldn’t help but think of the numerous everyday sins that we commit that caused Jesus’ death sentence.
Stubborn pride? Clank! Lying? Clank! Idolatry of money or celebrities? Clank! Clank! Anger, hatred, or wrath? Clank! Clank! Clank! Gluttony or over-indulgence? Clank! Lust? Clank! Using the Lord’s name in vain? Clank! Impure or sinful thoughts, words, or deeds? Clank! … Clank! … Clank! …
The metaphor had to be one of the strongest emotional experiences I’ve ever witnessed in church and I am actually grateful for having gone through it. It brought my sins to light and showed me exactly what I’m doing when I’m sinning.
While the moment may have lasted but a brief period in time, the Clank! that I hear inside my head will echo forever. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll help make me a better man, sinner and all.