Lydia held the spike in her hands.
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 nerves and muscle and 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 the grave, and 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.
So today, on the day of a remembered crucifixion, we stand firmly in the promise of an empty tomb. It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.
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.
And on Sunday, we will keep our gaze on the Friday hill from which a red-stained sacrifice flows fresh.
We’ll remember with new gratitude that Jesus bore the pain and endured the cross for the joy — 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 long spike that will stay on our kitchen table all … year … long.
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.
Posting a revised story from the archives.