He trudges through the underbrush, keen eyes scanning the forest. Passing up trees as gnarled and bent as his worn fingers, the forager searches for those standing tall and relatively straight.
He works alone by choice –his choice mostly, though he knows how he is perceived by his countrymen and neighbors. He is nearly as offensive as the product of his hands. His is a lonely profession.
Can the crafting of crosses be called a profession? Unlearned, unmarried, unskilled in all but the basest of tasks, the man barely ekes out a living.
Call it a passion instead. The irony of such a thought! His eyes are hollow, his face void of emotion. But something drives a man to deliver to the despised the means of a brutal death.
He stops, sizing up the tree before him, envisioning a bleeding, twisted human form upon it. Is it tall enough to make a spectacle of the imposter who believes he’s a king? “ King of the Jews, indeed!” Emphatically, he spits on the ground.
Backing up to the trunk, he contemplates the circumference –not too wide, nor too narrow. The supposed son of God must be capable of carrying his cross at least part way through the city. Once impaled upon it, he should be afforded plenty of exposure and little upon which to rest.
Is the wood pliable enough to accept seven-inch nails, yet sturdy enough to support the weight of the thirty-three year old Nazarene? The crafter pounds a nail into the tree and flexes, hoisting his own weight upon it. “…claims to be seeing to his father’s business. His father was only a carpenter, no better or worse than mine.”
Rough, ragged bark, unsightly and coarse –this will add insult to injury for the would-be Messiah and his gullible followers.
The hunt is over. The tree is well-suited to settle once and for all the question of kingship. Thieves and pirates know they are despicable characters. This Jesus fellow will know, too. “It’s what he deserves for thinking he’s something, when he’s not!”
A ringing of metal on wood resounds as the axe cuts deep into the tree’s base. Finally it is felled and its branches trimmed away. A crossbeam is cut and fastened into place high on the longer beam. It is a fine, albeit formidable specimen of the cross builder’s craft.
Men look away as the ragged craftsman enters the city, dragging his offensive specimen behind him. Women and children move briskly to the other side of the street, while their impassioned cries from earlier in the day still ring in the craftsman’s ears. “Give us Barabbas!”
He straightens, heaving the cross-beam higher onto his shoulders.
The Praetorium is chaotic. Mockers shout insults as tormentors tear at Jesus’ flesh. Emboldened, the cross bearer lugs his handiwork toward the object of ridicule and drops it at His feet.
Those eyes! They pierce through the man for what seems like eternity, conveying sorrow and love. It is too much. Regret wells up from deep inside the craftsman’s weathered, wounded soul. Ashamed, he slinks away. But his broken heart tells him to gaze once again into the eyes of the Son of God, this time seeking forgiveness.
The cross crafter waits, milling among the scoffers.
He trudges through the streets of Jerusalem, tender eyes scanning the crowds. Passing by sinners as rough and rigid as the burden on his back, the Savior seeks those who are bent and broken.
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