Standing over the blistering heat of the fire, as sweat trails down his dirty face, the smith fans the blazing flames with his bellows. Finishing the hammer he is working on, he checks it thoroughly, making sure it will meet the critical eye of the centurion. All his work as a smith for the Roman army must pass inspection before it goes into the hands of the soldiers.
After the centurion picks up the ready tools from the smith and approves them, he sets out to deliver them to his soldiers. On his way, he gives the hammer to one of the best soldiers under his command.
The soldier’s use of the hammer this day? Crucifixion duty. The soldier has endured the burden of this duty before. He hates this gruesome task.
Under the strain of this assignment, he ambles his way to skull hill, better known as Golgotha, where he joins the centurion and the three other soldiers already there. Standing there chatting with them, he hears that three prisoners are coming to be crucified. One of the prisoners is his charge.
He waits. Impending gloom hangs in the air.
A large, jeering crowd, intermingled with a great many mourners, moves toward the hill on the Via Dolorosa. Two men bent under the weight of their own crossbeam trudge their way up the hill.
A short distance behind them stumbles another man, whipped beyond recognition and staggering in agony. So disfigured and injured is He that one of the soldiers commands another man to carry the crossbeam for Him.
This bloodied mess of a man now stands before the soldier in charge of Him. The soldier wonders: Who is this man? What could he possibly have done to deserve this horrible beating? Surely, he wasn’t a soldier for he wears no hobnailed boots; he’s merely an ordinary sandaled man.
Sweat beads up on the soldier’s forehead. His heart races. His tongue sticks to the roof of his mouth.
The other soldiers help tie the soldier’s prisoner to the crossbeam while the soldier readies his nail-spikes and his hammer. He bends down, steadies the nail in one hand and draws back his hammer in the other hand.
But before he can bring it down on the nail, he glances over at the prisoner. Peering at him, through streaks of blood covering His face caused by a thorny crown twisted onto his head, are eyes of piercing kindness he has never seen before.
The centurion yells the soldier’s name and orders, “Get on with it!” Startling the soldier to remember to breath.
The soldier turns his head away to focus on the nail. He forces himself to bring the hammer down. His stomach churns and he feels like retching.
Completing the nailing of this man to the crossbeam, he looks down to see blood splatters covering his uniform and the red life of the man dripping from his hammer.
The other soldiers fasten the man to the upright beam and the crucifixion is finished. The soldier looks up as he hears the man say, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34 NKJV)
The soldier realizes now who this man is. Jesus. This is Jesus, the one everyone is talking about. Forgive? How can He forgive me for this horrid act?
Later, the soldier hears, “It is finished! Father, I commit My Spirit to You.” And the man Jesus breathes out His last breath.
The centurion orders the soldier to stand guard.
Stand guard? I just want to get out of here. So distraught that he cannot bear to look up at the naked body of this man on the cross, he lowers his eyes to the ground. He notices the bloody hammer still in his hand. He throws it down and backs away in horror.
Shame overwhelms him. He falls to his knees in regret.
The next morning, the centurion finds the soldier dead.
~The hammer that dripped blood? Had my name engraved on it.
~Thank You, Lord, for without Your suffering and death on the cross, I would have no resurrection joy!
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