Some stories are told in words or written in ink on paper. This one is a story told in wood and blood and thorns.
It was intended to be written on hearts where the words could be absorbed…like ink drawn into the fibers of writing paper. This message is not to remain on the surface but is to be drawn in. As ink and paper become one–the message becomes permanently bonded to the receiver. It is more like an embossing, leaving its mark pressed deep upon the human heart.
You know the details. The Nazarene carpenter’s son, born in a damp unpleasantly aromatic animal stall, spent his infancy hiding from King Herod’s assassins. When the old wicked King is dead and the coast is clear, the family resumes a life in the little town of Nazareth. Growing up there will allow Jesus to become quite invisible. He spends his time being human. Watching his earthly father at work, listening to his mother’s prayers and seeing the human predicament played out on the stage of his everyday experiences.
When the time is right, he receives heavenly confirmation from the Father. In the river Jordan he is baptized by his cousin John. He has very little earthly time. He immediately is led to the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. Jesus emerges the victor empowered by the acceptance that he is on earth to be a suffering, serving Savior. He moves from the wilderness to the villages and Galilean countryside.
Everywhere he looks there is sickness, pain, death and despair. He selects twelve men to travel with him, to learn from him and to become his link beyond the grave. Eleven remain steadfast, though uncertain. One will betray.
His message is at first welcomed and accepted but soon becomes challenged and controversial. His greatest adversaries are his own people. They are not only Jews but are of the most religious variety. They begin to plot his death. Meanwhile he serves and loves and heals. He teaches and touches and weeps.
At Passover time Jesus dines with the twelve. He washes the feet of his disciples. “I am going away,” he says. “To prepare a place for you.” But the journey is long and begins with a trumped up trial and will lead to Golgotha. All night he is beaten and mocked and ridiculed. Adorned with a robe and a crown of thorns, the trial continues through the night. A dark night….more dark than any that had come before it.
A nameless carpenter had some time before selected a timber and cut it. The proper size for an execution. No need to smooth the rough wood. Splintery and sharp like the words of his critics. A rough-hewn cross upon which all the sins of man would be smoothed out. One man’s blood for all men’s sins.
So on the cross between two thieves hung the Son of God. His body pierced and bleeding. At the ninth hour Jesus cried out and breathed his last. Then came a time of waiting. Then came a time of questions….darkness….desperation….doubt.
Over the next days would be anguish and emptiness among the disciples. Three women moved quickly on the morning of the third day. To the tomb they went with spices and heavy hearts. They intended to empty the contents of the spice jars upon the body of Jesus. But on this day the spice jars would remain full. Better yet, their empty hearts would be filled with the joy of a risen Savior. They would tell others the good news.
And this message in Wood and Blood and Thorns would be told and re-told through the generations. The story would be absorbed into human hearts as if ink on parchment. An indelible, permanent mark upon the hearts of believers. And the story goes on. Retold in each generation. Spoken in many voices and in many languages. Restoring hope. Making all things new.