We hauled the wicker baskets and the pastel-colored grass and the plastic eggs to the basement storage room. This is the cool tomb where all Easter decorations go until they are resurrected the following year.
“Mommy,” she said, rescuing the last of the Easter decorations from the box. “We should keep this one out all year long.”
She held the spike.
Her little sister asked, could she hold it, too?
And my youngest pressed the spike into her own hand, indenting little-girl flesh. And they both grimaced at the thought of a seven-inch tapered spike piercing through the flesh and the nerves and the muscle and the carpal tunnel of their Friend’s wrists.
Lydia often ends her night prayers this way: “Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross for us. That would have really hurt.”
Yes, of course, we celebrate the empty tomb, and the Risen Christ and the Holy Spirit come alive in us as believers. But we celebrate, too, the gory mess, and the pain of the wonderful, beautiful, scandalous cross.
I used to scoff at the altars in the Catholic churches, from behind which a crucified statue of Jesus still hung on the cross.
The cross ought to be empty, I’d say, because Jesus rose from a grave. He’s not on that cross anymore.
But, now, I wonder if my scoffing was rooted in the offensive idea of the blood, and the gore, and — especially — my own sin that pinned the Savior to a tree.
I did not want to gaze upon a cross and a man hanging in pain while paying the debt I couldn’t pay.
I wonder, today, if we need a little bit more Good Friday in all our days. Not that we ought to crucify ourselves — or each other — over and over again. Jesus died once and for all, and yes He overcame the grave, crushing the enemy forevermore.
But when we gaze upon a cross, it sweetens the victory found in an empty tomb. And it insulates us from watering down the Good News into some sort of prosperity gospel that tells believers that a life in Christ leads to happiness and success. Because God didn’t promise easy lives. He calls us to the pain of sacrifice that demands something of us. He calls us to take up our cross and follow Him.
So today, on the heels of a celebrated Resurrection, we stand firmly in the promise of an empty tomb. But we also keep our gaze on the hill from which a red-stained sacrifice flows fresh.
We’ll keep the spike on the kitchen table, and we’ll remember with new gratitude that he bore the pain and endured the cross for the joy set before Him.
Even today, Jesus wears his scars — a daily, visible reminder of spikes driven through flesh. We remember daily, too, with our own visible reminder: a spike on the table.
Jesus, Keep me near the cross. Lead me up that hill daily, so I never forget this: Your grace is free, but it was not cheap. Just writing those words … I stop here at these computer keys, and I shake my head and feel that familiar lump of gratitude in my throat. Let me never cheapen what You did for me. In Your incomparable name, the Name above all other names … Amen.
Photo one: Lydia holding our spike.
Photo two: A nail on a fence near Monument, Colorado. This stunning photo was taken by Deb DesMarteau, my husband’s aunt. She sent the photo last week via email and said that if God prompted, I could use it here. Dear Deb, this seemed the perfect day. Thank you for sharing your gifts.
Each Wednesday, I join Ann Voskamp as we explore spiritual practices that draw us nearer to the heart of Jesus. This week, we consider: Cultivating the Life God Desires. Ann’s post today is knee-buckling beautiful. You may find it by clicking here.