It is often said that bad things come in threes.
Yet we see in scripture that the number three represents completeness.
Are there not three facets of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost? Three parts to the Tabernacle: the court, the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies?
Jonah was in the whale for three days. Jesus was in the tomb for three days.
The number resonates all through the Word of God. How then can we see the number three as a bad omen?
Yet, as I pondered this, it came to me--the image of three nails. The vision stayed with me for weeks. Yet I could not put together what exactly God was saying. What was the significance of those three nails?
Three nails pierced the hands and feet of Jesus as he hung upon the cross. Three nails were used to crucify our Savior.
Slowly, my vision cleared. My eyes were opened, as again, I read the story of the crucifixion.
As the first nail bit into the flesh of Jesus’ palm, as the crowd taunted and jeered, He spoke this prayer:
Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Luke 23:34
He looked past the hammer, beyond the hand, and into the heart that was yet unclean. A heart that needed Him, for was not this His mission, to bring the lost to the Father. He forgave, and in so doing, He showed us our need and His redeeming love.
The second nail pierced through his other hand, and with the agony of the searing pain, he cried out:
My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Mark 15:34
Here was the climax of Jesus’ life. All He had worked for unfolded in that desperate hour. On the cross of Calvary, Jesus not only bore our sins, but He became our sin. He experienced the full meaning of what it was to be human: completely and utterly separated from God. For where sin is, God cannot be. The gulf stretched before Jesus, and He was alone.
The final nail was driven into His feet, those precious feet where the tears of Mary had washed away the stains of His journey. It was in that final hour that the third prayer was lifted toward heaven:
Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Luke 23:46
Through the torment of His distress, Jesus surrendered to the will of God. He trusted the Father despite His circumstances. The Savior demonstrated to us all, that even in the midst of our trials, we are to have faith in the Lord. God is our salvation. God turned and reached across the void and took hold of Jesus.
It is finished!” John 19:30
The Bride Price was paid. Yet, God had more to give. Three days later, within a dark and dismal tomb, life returned to Jesus. Death could not hold Him, even as death has no power over us!
But how can we conquer death?
Each point, each prayer, must pierce us, even to our very souls. We must be crucified with Christ.
There were three crosses on that first Good Friday. Two thieves hanging beside Jesus: one to the right and one to the left.
On one side, the thief blasphemed, taunting Jesus:
If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” Luke 23:39
The other thief rebuked the first:
“We receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.”
Here, as we all must do, he acknowledged his sin. He perceived his own guilt and the terrible gulf before him. So he surrendered to God, and spoke with a humble and honest heart:
Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” Luke 23:41-42
As the thief confessed his belief that Jesus is the One who saves, Jesus looked at him with those loving eyes and spoke these words:
Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43
Today, we have a choice to make. We can either be as the first thief, and deny Christ; or we can be as the second thief, admit our fault and ask for God’s forgiveness.
Jesus showed us the way--with three nails and three prayers.
So what can three nails accomplish?
They can bridge the gulf between death and life. Save the lost. Transform hearts. Open minds. Free a captive soul.
Three nails and three prayers. The choice is yours.
Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve….But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15
Susan Van Volkenburgh