What Really Held Him There

April 22, 2011 | 15 comments

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.

by | April 22, 2011 | 15 comments


  1. Missie

    It is so hard to see the spike, makes me cringe thinking about it, but it is all too easy to forget.
    Thank you for your wisdom.

  2. jaybird7

    Thank you, God, for your love.
    Thank you, Jennifer, for these words.

    If we're not willing to let the violence of Good Friday hover within us, the full appreciation of Easter cannot dawn upon us.

  3. Chris Godfredsen

    This is why that Hebrews 12 text, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith" is so hard for me today. I realize that Sunday's coming, but it is my sin for which he hung there. They are my times of running from him that hurt his heart.

    And yet He condescended far beneath his dignity, became human and took it all for me. And even more amazingly, he'd do it again in a heartbeat!

  4. Karen

    Beautiful and powerful post, Jennifer…so many seem to want to downplay that precious blood…

    May you and your family experience a joy-filled Resurrection Day…

  5. Jennifer @ Studio JRU

    Amazing love. Beautiful love. Blessings on this Good Friday Jennifer!

  6. bluecottonmemory

    So true – we need a little Good Friday in all our days, to remind us deeply what each day is all about!

    Wishing you blessings on your Easter!

  7. David Rupert

    We love the image of the nice, clean cross that gleams in the morning sun. rarely do we understand the dirty, bloody side of it. Great reminder

  8. Linda

    This is so moving Jennifer. I have been pondering that verse this past week – the JOY set before Him. It was the joy of us – Him looking ahead and seeing us needing Him. It swells the heart.
    Thank You Jesus – Sunday is coming!

  9. Karen Kyle Ericson


  10. Lori

    Amen and amen, beautiful. I love your little one's prayer! Lori

  11. Susan DiMickele

    Amen sister. I'm with you! Sunday is coming.

    It was all about the joy before him. (And I used to scoff at those statues of Jesus too….)

  12. Alleluiabelle

    Your words and pictures lead me to tears, and…joy at the same time.

    I come by here so often to read. You always draw me in…deeper and deeper…closer and closer to our Lord. I love Him so much now that I could burst but we can never ever get enough of Him can we?

    You, dear woman of God, are such a blessing to me…such a vessel in this earthly world for Him. May He bless you and your beautiful family abundantly in ALL ways.

    Have a very very blessed Easter.

    Love you,

  13. Beth E.

    So true, Jennifer! This is such a powerful and moving post. Jesus died for me…ME! It's really hard to wrap my brain around it all. What wondrous love is this!

    I've never seen the video before. Hallelujah!

  14. Sandra Heska King

    So powerful.

    I asked my grandgirl what Good Friday was, and she said it was when we celebrated Jesus dying on the cross. I remember, but I can't celebrate on Friday. But Sunday's coming.

    Thank you.

  15. Wendy

    A close friend of ours grew up Catholic and I remember he said once "Catholics and Protestants could learn something from each other. Catholics the beauty and closeness of a personal relationship with the risen Christ (represented in the empty cross) and Protestants the humility felt in the suffering and sacrifice paid for us by Christ (represented by the crucifix)." I'm not stating it nearly as well, but essentially a proper understanding of our position before an Infinite and Holy God as one of His beloved children in Christ. Grace and Truth.
    Loved your post! Thanks Jen!


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