I Drive A Better Nail These Days

Uncategorized Apr 11, 2024

Each year at Easter, the church I pastor presents a special program called "Journey to the Cross." This program is an interactive, tactile experience in which we escort people through various stages of the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. 

Each stage presents perspectives of the crucifixion from different Bible characters. At each stage, participants perform an action whereby they identify themselves with the same betrayal, denial, and self-righteousness demonstrated by each character. People get to experience taking communion even as they count out 30 silver coins from a cloth bag while they listen to Judas rationalize why he betrayed Jesus. People kneel in a prayer garden and watch while Jesus is betrayed with a kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane, even as he prays to his father. The contrast between the pious position of kneeling and the actions of Judas’ deadly kiss is a striking experience. People get the opportunity to wash their hands in water even as they listen to Pilate explain how he was placed in a political trap and "had no choice" but to turn Jesus over to be crucified. And people get the experience of listening to Peter talk about denying Jesus three times.

It was at the stage of Peter’s denial that it happened. During this particular stage, we invited participants to take a pen and a piece of paper and write the words "I do not know him" and then nail that piece of paper to a wooden cross. The actions highlight how each of us has denied and betrayed Jesus at some point. The sound of several hammers tapping nails into a wooden cross as Peter tells his story in the background is sobering. Surely, you can imagine the scene as if it were during the program.

There is an incredible difference between the way that grown men drive nails into a wooden cross and the way that little children do it. I watched as mothers and fathers assisted their little children, six or seven years old, as they tapped the nails into the cross. Sometimes, they would hold the paper so the child could handle the nail and the hammer. Sometimes, they would hold the child's hand with the hammer in it, helping the child tap the nail. I noticed no parent was daring enough to hold the nail while putting the hammer in their child's hand.

When children drive nails, they don't hold a hammer correctly. They tap the nail so gently that it takes multiple tabs to embed the nail into the wood. It is an awkward process to watch. And we adults smiled as we watched them struggle to participate.

But the adults? The adults have got it down pat. Two or three swift strikes of the hammer and the nail is deep in the wood. As I watched one precious little girl tap, tap, tap, tap with a hammer and a nail, I thought to myself, “Keep trying. You’ll get the hang of it." I meant the words as an encouragement, even though I did not say them out loud. But after the words crossed my mind, the meaning of what I had said suddenly settled heavily on my heart.

"Don't worry, little kid. Keep trying. You will learn how to drive a nail with time." Because we all learn how to drive a nail well, we all learn how to deny and betray the Savior the longer we live. Every adult has stacked up countless nails driven swiftly, concretely, and repeatedly into the wooden cross of Jesus. 

Multiple times, I have nailed words of denial, betrayal, failure, and sin into my Savior’s cross. At first, like a little child trying to wield a hammer, my sins were awkward. As a child, it was a slip-up here, a bad word there, perhaps sneaking an extra cookie when no one was looking. But much like little children, my sins grew bigger.

My heart broke as I came to grips with the reality that I drive a much better nail now. The hammer fits my hand comfortably. I no longer fumble to hold the words of denial against the cross. And my taps on the nail are no longer light. They are solid. They are sure. I drive a nail well.

I rejoice to know that Peter's denial was not the end of his story. John 21:15-17 records how Jesus came and stood on the seashore after his resurrection. He beckoned for the disciples, especially Peter, to join him in a meal. And there, by the fire, he gave Peter another chance. In fact, he gave him three more chances. It has often been noted that Peter was able to affirm his love for Christ three times, even as he had denied Jesus three times on the night before the crucifixion.

If you recognize that you have become much better at denial, betrayal, and sin over time, I have good news for you. Though you may drive a better nail now, the three nails placed in the hands and feet of Jesus are all it takes to forgive your sins. In fact, no nail has ever been better driven than those that pierced the hands and feet of the God-man 2000 years ago. And those nails have provided forgiveness for every single tap, every single swing of the hammer, and every single act of betrayal you have ever committed against him.

I may drive a better nail now—so do you—but it's not better than those three nails.


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