Jason lived many years ago in the land where Jesus lived in the city where Jesus died. When Jason was eight years old, he did not go to school and he did not have much time to play. He worked every day with his father who was a blacksmith. Jason’s father took great pieces of iron and heated them in a huge fire until they were soft enough to shape into tools and horseshoes.

Jason did many jobs at his father’s shop. He ran and fetched just the right hammer his father needed. He stoked the fire until it was blasting hot. He held the horses and donkeys while his father hammered on their shoes. But Jason’s favourite job was being delivery boy. He would load up a big leather bag with things his father had made and set off through the streets of Jerusalem, sometimes even outside the city walls, to make his delivery. It felt good to get away from the hot dirty workshop and out into the fresh clean air.

nails 2One day, Jason’s father called him and said, “I have an important delivery for you today.” The whole day yesterday, his father had been working hard making nails. These weren’t ordinary nails, the kind you would use to hammer wood. These were large heavy nails, as long as his father’s hand and as thick as three of his father’s fingers. The nails were black iron, sharp on one end and bent over flat on top. There were only nine nails but they were heavy and the delivery would be further away from home than Jason had ever been.

Jason’s father told him, “These nails have to go to the Roman soldiers, outside the city. If you go by the West gate, you will see a hill in the distance along the West road. Follow that road; you can’t miss it. You will find the soldiers there. They will be waiting for these nails. You need to hurry.”

“But why would anyone want nine big nails?” Jason asked.

His father frowned. “They just need them,” he said. “Roman soldiers have their reasons. It is better not to ask questions.”

Jason wanted to ask questions. But his father seemed impatient. Jason knew it was better to keep quiet.

It was early in the day when Jason left his father’s shop carrying the leather bag with the nine large black nails. The streets were quiet. There were dark clouds overhead. Jason thought it was going to rain and worried there might be a thunderstorm. He would have preferred to be home with his father if a storm came rather than walking alone down a winding road in search of Roman soldiers.

Jason passed through the city gates, into the empty countryside. He could see the hill in the distance. As he walked, the day grew hotter. The sky began to clear; the sun beat down on the lone boy walking away from the city carrying his bag of nails.

After an hour, Jason neared the hill. He saw a crowd of people gathered at the top. He heard shouting and saw the flash of swords and spears he knew the Roman soldiers carried. As he began to follow the path that wound up the hillside, the noise grew louder. His bag felt heavier each step he took.

As Jason neared the noisy group, he felt frightened by the angry voices. A group stood in a circle looking down at the ground. Jason pushed through the crowd until he came to the front of the circle. There Jason saw a man lying on the ground held down by three soldiers. Two of the soldiers held the man’s arms; another held his feet. Jason wondered why they were holding the man who was not struggling to get free. Then Jason saw that the man was being held on two large beams of wood fastened in the form of a cross, bigger than the man who lay on it.

When Jason got to the front of the crowd one of the soldiers noticed him. “Here’s the blacksmith boy,” he called to the others.

“Have you got the nails boy?” shouted another soldier in an angry voice.

“The nails are here sir,” said Jason.

“Bring them up here by his head.”

Jason approached the top of the cross where the soldier was kneeling holding the man’s arm on the cross. Jason saw that the soldier had a large wooden hammer. It was then that Jason knew what his father’s nails were for. These soldiers were going to nail this poor man’s hands and feet to the wood on which he lay.

“Give me a nail, boy,” the soldier shouted.

Jason reached into his bag and pulled out a nail. Jason did not want to see the man on the cross but something made him turn and look down. Just then the man looked up and met Jason’s stare. In the man’s eyes Jason saw great tenderness and love. He also saw great suffering and sadness.

Jason did not want to see the man’s face when the hammer hit the nail. But the man on the cross did not turn away. He looked deeply into Jason’s eyes and Jason felt that perhaps just being there and looking, he might help this man in all his pain.

Suddenly, Jason was hit hard on the side of his head. A soldier shouted at him, “Take a nail over to the other side.”

Jason walked around the top of the cross, reached into his bag and brought out another nail. Then Jason was told to go to the bottom of the cross where the man’s feet were nailed in place.

When the hammering stopped, Jason was pushed aside. Some of the soldiers gathered at the crossbeam of the cross and lifted it over their heads. Other soldiers pulled on ropes fastened to the top of the cross until pulled it straight in the air.

The cross fell with a sickening thud into the hole at the base; the man’s body jerked forward; there was a moment of awful silence.

Jason looked up at the man hanging on the cross. Their eyes met again. Jason expected to see anger, or fear, or hatred. But, all Jason felt when he looked into those eyes was the strength of love. It seemed to Jason that all the truth and goodness that had ever existed hung there on that cross in this one man. Jason felt that, even though this scene was horrible and painful, there was nothing anyone could do that could ever defeat the power of the love he saw in this man.

Jason walked away from the cross and the dying man on the hill that day, feeling confused and sad but somehow full of hope.

Three days later, Jason heard a strange tale; it was said that the man who had died on the cross had been seen again by his friends. Jason was hardly surprised by the story. He knew the man had died. No one survived Roman crucifixion. But Jason felt that even the fire that forged the nails that held this man’s hands and feet on the cross could never burn brighter than the love he had seen in those eyes that day.

Jason felt in his heart that one day he would know this man himself. This faith gave Jason deep trust that the love he had seen in the stranger’s eyes was stronger even than the hard iron nails he had delivered to the hill on that terrible day.

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