Paid on the nail

Now that all our Easter shopping is over and we think it’s safe to resume normal life – whatever that is – I thought I’d buck the trend of which I’m so often a part, and give a passing thought to what it was really all about.

Many, many years ago Graham Kendrick wrote a moving and effective song called Paid on the Nail. It is not widely known now, but it came to my mind on reading an article sent to me by a friend, which contained some harrowing details about what it meant to be crucified.

I expect that you, like me, would rather think about the love of God for all of us and how, in the words of my local mystic Julian of Norwich, “all will be well, and all manner of things will be well”.

That’s true, of course, but I do also happen to believe that it took something terrible and miraculous to get us to the point where we can connect with God. If the Resurrection isn’t true, there’s not much point in Christianity, but what did the Crucifixion mean? The following details come partly from the article I received, but mainly from a health website.

At that time in history, death by crucifixion was reserved for only the worst of criminals. Large sharp nails, about 15 to 20 cm long, each with a point of 6 cm, were hammered into the pulses – not into the palms, as the flesh of your palm would simply tear from the weight of your body.

In the pulse, there’s a tendon that extends to your shoulder, and when the nails were hammered in, it would break that tendon. This forced Jesus to use all the muscles of his back in order to breathe, as the air was forced from his lungs by the weight of his torso. So Jesus had to support himself on the single nail hammered into his feet, which was bigger than those driven into his pulses, as the feet were carved together.

Since his feet could not endure for a long time without tearing, Jesus was forced to alternate that “cycle” in order to breathe.

It is believed Jesus endured this cruelty for three hours. A few minutes before He died, he was no longer bleeding, for he had no blood left in his body. He was simply pouring water from his cuts and holes.

The human body is composed of nearly 3.5 litres of blood. Jesus shed every drop of His blood for us. He had three nails hammered into him; a crown of thorns on his head; and a spear plunged into his chest by a Roman soldier. Added to his suffering was the burden of carrying his own cross, weighing nearly five stone, for well over a mile while the crowd spat on his face and threw stones.

Christians believe Jesus had to endure this experience so that we may all have free access to God. Not so that another religion could be created: the access is available to everyone. Not so that Christians could impose their beliefs on anyone: again, it’s simply a gift. Jesus was a Jew, and people from all races and religious backgrounds have accepted what he did.

That’s it. No strings, just nails. Oh, and a resurrection.