The blacksmith takes the iron ore and smelts it. The iron he takes and placing it on the anvil hammers it into shape. Three times he works on pieces of the iron, three times he hammers until the work is completed. Three nails. He stands back and looks at his handiwork.
The craftsman takes the hide that has been cured. It has been a hard and stinking job, taking the skin of an animal and turning it into leather, strong and supple, it has life in it, new life. He cuts strips from the hide and then weaves them together but only so far. He leaves nine long strands, to make it more effective. A whip. He stands back and looks at his handiwork.
The carpenter takes the wood and works it with saw and plane. It must be strong, this wood, no cracks that will cause the wood to give way. He works hard, length is important, accuracy is required. Some rope is taken to give strength to the joints. It needs to last a while. A ladder. He stands back and looks at his handiwork.
The diver enters the water. Down down she swims, like a mermaid, a child of the water. She has learnt to hold her breath and open her eyes and see through the often murky water when the sea bed has been disturbed. The fish ignore her as she glides through them, down, down. She knows what she is looking for. And then she sees it, the valued prize, the harvest of the sea, her quest, worth a good price in the market which will ensure her family eats a good meal. She grasps and pulls and rises to the surface clutching the prize. A sponge. She stands back and looks at her handiwork.
Nails, a whip, a ladder, a sponge. All so ordinary, all so harmless, the work of our hands, the fruits of our labour, our skill as a diver, as a carpenter, as a craftsman, as a blacksmith. The nails could hold together a manger in which the fodder for the cattle could be placed, or even a baby laid. The whip could be used by a shepherd protecting his flock of sheep from the prowling lion, the good shepherd. The ladder could be set against a tree, a fig tree, and the ripe figs gathered, a tree under which a person might sit. The sponge could be used by a person attempting to wash the grim of the day away, or by a woman endeavouring to wash her hands clean.
We are so industrious, so practical. We can turn our hand to almost anything, invent almost anything, make discoveries every day and increase knowledge and skill exponentially. We are so clever, we are almost like God.
The book Genesis tells the tale of the people of the earth who begin to build a tower.
Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves’. (Genesis 11.4)
The sin wasn’t in the building of the tower; the sin came in the pervasion of the purpose to which it was put. God saw their purpose was to make themselves equal to God. God saw that all that he had made was good, but humankind has a way of seeing in almost everything the potential for using it for ill.
Jesus stood naked before the crowds. There was no end to the humiliation, the degradation that he suffered. All that he had had been stripped from him, this was no act of self-emptying that we may talk of theologically, this was brutal treatment as even his blood stained clothes were ripped from his back. The wood he had carried, like Isaac before him, was laid on the ground. His journey, Calvary bound, was complete. The interested ones amongst the crowds, those with time on their hands, those who had been worked up to demand his death, had followed through the gate and were watching, some quite close, others from a distance.
And then with brutal force Jesus was thrust backwards and with backbreaking force fell against the wood. His arms were grabbed and held down by the soldiers whilst another took a newly forged nail and drove it with a single blow through his wrist. Like a teenager trying to impress his girlfriend at a fairground as he tries his arm with a test of his strength, the hammer descends and the scream from the victim echoes around the barren hill and bounces off the city walls. And again, the scream sounds out as the second nail is driven through.
For no purpose a whip is grabbed and he is lashed into submission again as the cross beam is hauled towards the upright wood. A ladder, newly made, is taken and set against the wood and the cross beam is raised up and the pain, the pain on Jesus’ arms and hands and chest is killing. He is stretched and is choking, gasping for air like a fish out of water.
The beam is lashed to the upright and the ladder moved to give another soldier the chance for the final wield of the hammer against the final nail, through the ankles, a harder job – but this soldier is a craftsman.
They stand back and look at their handiwork.
I can use my talents for good or evil; I can use my skill for good or evil. That nail can hold together or it can rip apart; that ladder can rescue or condemn; that leather can bind or can burn. Perhaps only the sponge is used in a compassionate way, which would please the young girl who harvested it. It is dipped in liquid and it touches his mouth, soft and, for a moment, refreshing. Perhaps it will be used later to wash his body for burial.
I have the choice
to do for good or evil,
to use for good or evil,
to live for good or evil.
the choices I make today.