They have barely reached the peak of Golgotha when His clothes are violently torn off, leaving only open shreds where skin should be. Jesus staggers right and left as his hunched form is prodded towards the cross by clubs. He kneels beside the cross as one last time, His Sacred Body touches the dust that He created. Now is the moment for which He came to earth. Here is the wood for the sacrifice, and here is the lamb.
Surrounded by mockery, He lies down on that precious wood. Every movement is agony as the Victim and Priest stretches Himself out against the cross. Jesus’ left arm extends, His palm stretched open to heaven. “Here I am, Lord,” He breathes. “This is my Body,” He whispers to His Bride.
Jesus looks sideways, into the eyes of the soldier who will not look at Him. He feels the edge of the nail against His wrist. And then He feels what cannot be described.
He hears the hammer so close to His ear. Over and over it screams as it delivers its blows. But He has heard this sound before. “Father,” He cries in His torment.
In His moment of deepest pain, Jesus thinks of His foster father, Joseph. He brings to mind memories of His father at work, when Jesus’ little eyes were wide with awe at the strength of His dad who could haul giant pieces of wood and craft them into homes. He remembers the song of the hammer, the percussive score that played in the background of His entire childhood. He remembers watching Joseph drive the nails into the wood in swift and sure movements.
Jesus remembers when Joseph first taught Him. How He was so eager to place the two pieces of wood on top of each other. How Jesus had moved His thumb too quickly and felt the piercing pain of a nail for the first time. Tears had sprung to Jesus’ eyes, but they were wiped away so quickly by Joseph’s kind hands. The pain vanished as soon as Mary kissed that little thumb.
Mary and Joseph stood side by side that day to console their hurting child. But now Mary kneels alone. She is only able to watch as a wound is inflicted that will never close up, but will be glorified. Today however, there is no external glory. There is no comfort she can offer Jesus other than her presence and other than the hammer song that she and Jesus both know so intimately.
Joseph was there to hold Mary’s hand when Simeon foretold the revealing stab. But now as she feels that sword sink into her heart, there is nobody to help. The woman who watched her husband die now watches her son prepare to breathe His last.
They were both there when Joseph left this life. They both cradled him like a child, not letting go until his chest had stopped rising and falling and the fear had disappeared from his face. As their tears mingled in an embrace, Jesus had explained to Mary that they would see Joseph again, that He Himself would lead His foster father into the embrace of the heavenly Father. Here on the cross, that momentous occasion is only hours away.
The Son accepts the nails for the sake of the one who first taught him to hammer. Because of righteous Joseph, a man who was imperfect and yet a true son of David, the sound of the hammer blow becomes a consolation in the midst of unfathomable anguish.
In His humanity, Jesus has never tasted death. The dread of Gethsemane washes over Him once more as a nail is driven into His right wrist and His feet are shoved into position for theirs. But then He thinks of Joseph, the man who had protected and provided for and loved the Son of God as his own. This first teacher to Divine Wisdom Himself had known death. And aren’t sons willing to walk down any road, so long as they step where their father has trodden first?
“I will never abandon you,” Joseph had surely told Mary and the unborn Jesus the morning after the angel’s nocturnal visit. On Calvary, we can be sure that he never did.