When I got up this morning I went to the basement to inspect the cross and commented, “It’s finished.” I’ve been making a six-foot cross for a new church that I’ve been assisting. My job was to build a rustic cross that they could hang on a wall just temporarily until they find their more permanent home.
The cross began with the choice of wood; here is a copy of an earlier journal entry:
Building the cross in the garage is an experience new to me. I’ve used my carpentry talents for many things in my life: tables, decks, additions, remodeling, furniture, etc. all for home use or profit, but never for a free gift to a church, and certainly never making a religious symbol. So this is different for me, just another in a growing line of changes that are taking place in my life these days following my rededication to the Lord.
I nearly bought new, finished blemish-free wood. I also have some expensive walnut stored in my garage rafters. After some thoughtful insights, I selected the wood that my neighbor gave me a few years ago. The three thick planks have been around—have a history. He’d stored them in his garage; they were given to him from another garage cleaning. The wood has many flaws: warp, rough unplanned surface, nail holes, band gouges—obviously the unwanted damaged corner planks in a lumber bunk from southeast Asia. The mahogany wood is soft with a plain grain the type used to make Luann veneer for interior doors. I built the cross with the end result in mind that it be very light, rustic, and beaten like the original may have been.
I’m trying to put myself in that place two millennia ago. Those who made the original cross days or weeks before it was assigned to Jesus to carry and then to be hung upon, had no idea at the time what they did. That carpentry shop used hand-hewing tools to carve the logs down to squared off posts, one short for the horizontal part—wide enough for a man’s outstretched arms, and the vertical enough to hold a man several feet off the ground. The posts probably had rough gouge marks all over them. Tool marks would not have been a consideration for such a use. For thousands of years structural members typically showed tool marks; only fine furniture was smoothed, buffed, and finishes applied—the use of jointers, planers and sanding equipment wasn’t even dreamed about. Crosses were probably done hurriedly and with whatever scrap or discarded wood was lying around—probably carpenter’s rejects.
Crucifixion was the lowest, most humiliating, deplorable event of the day. The wood used, no doubt carried a similar stigma. Only God through Jesus could transform that stigma into an international symbol of hope, love and forgiveness. What an awesome God, who changes all of us from His enemies in our sin, to His friends, through the death and humiliation of His only begotten Son, nailed to a rough wooden cross.
This is Good Friday; I am overwhelmed that I’d be finished with the cross on this day; just as Christ was finished with His earthly life as a man nearly two millenia ago on that cross. As I write this it is 1:30 pm, the time that Jesus was dying and suffering and when the earth went dark for three hours. I will never again see the cross quite the same after having measured, cut, molded, gouged, sanded, applied finish, and all of the processes necessary to the making of an effective cross for this young church start up. But what I will remember most is the timing and how I innocently, just waking up, exclaimed, “It’s finished” without a thought to the significance of the day.
How God moves us in strange and wonderful ways, to make lasting impressions on us to guide us deeper into his service, is a daily joy to me. I have no doubt that this story will be used someday for His good pleasure. All the Glory be to God.