I had a pair of Keds shoes when I was in the second grade. They were blue with a touch of tan and had a little strap on either side that held a small, metal “k”, the forerunner of the iconic Nike Swoosh, I suppose. I remember thinking at the time that this was the coolest pair of shoes I’d ever had. These things are important in the life of an average 7-year old boy. Come to think of it, they’re important in the life of the average 42-year old boy, also.
These shoes had black, rubber soles and a small tag on the heel said “steel shank.” At the time, I was operating under the now obviously mistaken assumption that said steel shank would make my feet impervious to virtually any sort of damage or injury. Including, but not limited to stepping on a nail. “Watch this,” I remember saying. I’m sure that well over 90% of injuries to humans of the male persuasion are preceded by this phrase. I would also argue that there is almost always at least one female present to witness the utterance of this phrase. In fact, the female is usually the reason the phrase is uttered in the first place. Guys have woven into the fiber of their being the innate desire to impress the ladies even if those ladies are in elementary school. Digression. I excel at it. Anyway, “Watch this,” I said, “I can step on a nail with these shoes and it won’t hurt me.” We had happened across an old piece of lumber with a large nail perfectly positioned to plunge into the foot of an unsuspecting victim. I placed my right foot atop the nail, pushed up with my left foot, and placed the full weight of all 40 of my pounds on the nail’s pointed tip. I stood on it for about 1/1000th of one second. That’s how long it took for that rusty old nail to pass practically unimpeded through the sole of my super-shoe and plant itself firmly into the bottom of my foot. How it didn’t stick out through the top of my foot is something I have no explanation for. It didn’t, though.
My leg and foot recoiled against this Clostridium tetani ridden intruder. I reflexively lifted my foot only to find that the board was still attached to my foot. My father is an old-school Baptist pastor and my mother, the genteel pastor’s wife. Profanity was not something I had heard with any sort of regularity at that point in my life. So, rather than let loose with a string of expletives, I simply started crying. A lot and loudly. I reached down and removed the plank from my foot and sprinted, as much as a kid with a hole through his foot can sprint, home to my mama. I vividly recall both the sound the nail made as it punctured my foot and the immense pain that shot through my body as a result. That’s not something that you forget easily. Even after thirty-five years.
Sometime around 33 AD, Jesus had an encounter with a nail. Three, actually. I’m not comparing my pain to His. I’m saying that I know how bad one nail hurt my foot. Imagine how much pain Jesus felt as a grown man whose full weight was held to a cross of coarse timber by a nail through each wrist and one nail through both feet. Imagine the beatings that left His skin tattered and torn. Imagine the crown of thorns pressed onto and into his head and how the blood must have poured down and clouded his vision. Imagine the humiliation of being mocked and spat upon and paraded practically naked in front of bloodthirsty crowds. Crowds who wanted to see Him dead. Crowds who only days before had welcomed Him into the city as a king to be worshiped. He knew it would be this way. He knew full well the brutal and violent punishment that would be inflicted upon Him. They didn’t take His life, He gave it willingly. He did it because He knew that you and I would one day owe a debt we could never hope to pay. He did it because He loves us more than we can even begin to understand.
Steel shanks? We don’t need no steel shanks. We’ve got a Savior! Happy Easter!