A Lenten Reflection
Today, I must make a confession. Many of you may not be surprised by the outcome of my story. Still, because I am shameful of my profession, I would rather that my name remains anonymous. But my job, I cannot lie about; I am a cross maker. Wait, before you pick up a stone, please hear my story because I believe we are all cross makers.
While I was in Jerusalem looking for a job, stealing was my first profession. I knew that this was wrong, but I was not a fisherman by trade. Nor did I own a boat to rent to other fishermen in the area. My education was limited, and working with the scribes and Pharisees was not an option. Still, I needed money to support my family.
One day I saw a scroll posted advertising a new job in Jerusalem. The chief priest was looking for a cross maker. When I interviewed, he didn't say much about my responsibility. He showed no concern about my past or present means of income. And God knows, I would have never told him about how I robbed from the temple during the many lectures on the Sabbath. He mentioned that the salary is substantial. I trusted that he would pay me well after hearing how he offered 30 pieces of silver to a guy named Judas. For what, I didn't know, and I didn't care. Oh, happy days are here! Finally, I have a chance to earn some money without stealing. I was burying my past.
On my first day on the job, my first assignment was to make two crosses. Excited and grateful for this opportunity, I worked all day diligently. On the following day, while hard at work, I heard a loud commotion from a large crowd. They were boisterous, but I did not let the excitement disturb me. Suddenly I heard a knock on the door. It was the chief priest who ordered the cross. He asked me how many crosses I had made. With a great smile, I said, "Three." He looked at me again, sternly asking me, "Have you ever been in the temple before?" I told him sharply, "No!" He repeated the question again, but this time he summoned a soldier from outside. I didn't understand what was going on.
The soldier testified to my greatest fear, he remembered seeing me in the temple area. I was arrested for stealing from the temple. Immediately they picked up the two crosses and told me to carry the third. In the meantime, the crowd was getting louder. The officer sent one of his soldiers through the group with the cross I held. They made another thief, and I carry the other two crosses. We were on Calvary Lane. Once there, we were sentenced to death for stealing from the temple.
Later other soldiers appeared and whipped us and nailed us to the two crosses that I had made. You know what's interesting? If you don't change your evil ways, that same evil will nail you to a cross. A wise man once told me that SIN is "Self-Inflicted Nonsense." The officer did not nail me to the cross. I nailed myself through my stupidity, never seeking help from anyone. When I looked up the road, I saw that same raucous crowd that I had heard while making the crosses.
With pain ravaging my body, I then observed a man carrying the third cross made by me. He looked like the Teacher that was in the temple on many occasions talking about the law. He was severely beaten, worse than we were. His back was opened by whips with spikes. This caused his back to bleed like water flowing from a mountain. He struggled to carry my cross. He fell three times. Veronica, a sister in the crowd, wiped his face; she showed mercy to the Teacher.
At this point, the soldier hurried a man, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was in the crowd with his sons, to pick up the cross. The sons cried as they feared that something terrible would happen to their father. The boy's father picked up the cross and proceeded to carry it for the Teacher. This scene reminded me of one of the temple readings from the prophet Isaiah. "Though harshly treated, he submitted and did not open his mouth; Like a lamb led to slaughter or a sheep silent before shearers, he did not open his mouth. Seized and condemned, he was taken away. Who would have thought any more of his destiny?"
When they nailed Him to my cross, He anguished in pain as each nail penetrated His hands and feet. And as the crowd mocked him, the thief on the other side joined them. I don't know what this thief was thinking about; this was an innocent man while we were guilty of stealing from the temple. I then heard Him say seven profound phrases from the cross. First, he said, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." I really don't understand how He forgave those people for beating him. Next, He turned and saw his mother's tears. He appealed to His disciples to look after his mother, "Woman, behold, your son." Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into their home.
At this point, I wondered why He did not command the angels to come down to help him. He did say, however, "I thirst." But strangely, He refused the vinegar mixture. I watched His strength fade as He cried out in a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" I decided at this point to ask him to remember me when he gets to his Kingdom that I heard him talk about in the temple. And to my surprise, he said, ""Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." This man was something else! He even quoted a line from the prayer book of the Jews, "Into your hands, I commend my spirit..." And then finally he said, "It is finished."
Yes, I was a cross maker, but the man in the middle carried the cross for me.
What crosses have you made in your life that you need Jesus to carry?
Say a prayer thanking Jesus for carrying your cross.
The Cross Maker
Michael P. Howard, M.A.
Eat the Scroll Ministry © 2020