Last year, my pastor asked me to share a reflection at our church’s Good Friday service. Not being much of a public speaker, I decided to write a song instead. A melody came to me almost immediately for a Good Friday hymn that would be called “They Nailed My Jesus to a Cross.” The lyrics were a bit more of a challenge. As I read the crucifixion accounts, I was having a hard time really connecting. I was sad about the painful and gruesome ways that Jesus was being tortured. I was angry at the people responsible. I was outraged at the unjust punishment of the innocent. I was scandalized by the death of the Almighty God. But there was nothing in the story that really drew my heart to the transforming love that I know to be so central to the message of the cross.
So I stepped away from the verses and just played the chords of the song, musically searching for what I was missing. And as I played, I found myself singing the words of a traditional prayer: “Lord, have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord, have mercy on me.” And suddenly, I knew what was missing from my account of the crucifixion. This missing piece became the turn that completed my hymn:
They nailed my Jesus to a cross. They nailed His hands and feet.
The hands that made the leper clean and caused the blind to see,
The feet that walked upon the waves, those wondrous feet and hands
Were covered with Messiah’s blood. Behold the Son of Man.
They nailed my Jesus to a cross, a thief on either side,
And all around the crowd demands my Lord be crucified.
He could have called the angels down so justice would be served,
But He Himself bore all the wrath their guilty souls deserved.
They nailed my Jesus to a cross, God’s one and only Son,
Light of the world, the Word made flesh, the Christ, the Holy One.
Behold Him now, the mighty King, His glory veiled in shame.
My Lord was broken and condemned . . . though I deserve the blame.
I nailed my Jesus to a cross. ‘Twas I who drove the nails
With all my sin and all my pride and all the ways I’ve failed.
Yet Jesus looks down from the cross, so ready to forgive.
He says, “My child, do not fear. I died so you could live.”
The piece that I had been missing was my part in the story, my responsibility for what happened to my Jesus. The amazing mystery of the cross lies in the harsh reality of my guilt and the unbelievable, self-sacrificial, loving response of Christ.
John 4 tells the story of the woman at the well’s encounter with Jesus. He offers her the gift of living water. He answers her questions, settling centuries of theological and social debate. He even tells her outright that He is the Messiah. And yet, as she spreads the news of His arrival, her gospel invitation is, “Come meet a man who told me everything I’ve ever done.” Knowing what we know of this woman, her proclamation doesn’t seem to be one of “good news.” I suspect some who heard her tried to hush her up, thinking that she lacked an appropriate level of shame for her life of sin. Maybe some refused to come because they feared what Jesus would reveal about them.
But this is the irony of the gospel: God knows everything about us, and He still loves us. God placed in us a deep desire to be fully known. He is the only One who knows us in our entirety and meets us with an unconditional love, a love that knows our weakness and–rather than condemning us for it–bore it all to the cross. As you journey through this season of Lent, I invite you to personally claim this good news. Behold Jesus on the cross as the God who knows you completely and offers Himself to you with a powerful, transforming, unconditional love.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139: 23-24)
Robin Giberson Lawrenz is a co-dean at Teen 1 this summer.