One Roman nail
A Roman nail sits on my desk. It is accurately dated no later than 86 A.D.
The nail is from Scotland where a Roman fortress used to stand.
The fortress, called Inchtuthill (Inch-TOO-till), was constructed about 82 A.D.
It was soon dismantled in 86 A.D. when the occupying force, the Legio XX Valeria Victrix, withdrew. You can learn more about this site by clicking here.
In the 1950s, Sir Ian Richmond excavated the site of the fortress.
A large pit was found containing more than 750,000 iron nails and other iron objects weighing a total of ten tonnes. The pit was elaborately concealed, and the nails and ironwork were almost certainly buried by the troops to deny them to the local tribes when the Romans left.
It is one of those nails that sits on my desk.
Holding this piece of 1st Century history, I realize this nail is not unlike the nails used to crucify our Lord.
What happened to those nails?
I imagine the history of a nail used in the crucifixion of Jesus. A piece of iron shaped and used by the Empire of Rome.
- Who mined the ore?
- Who smelted the iron and made the nail?
- Whose hands held the nail as it was driven through His unresisting flesh?
- What happened to the nail after it was discarded?
From these musings I wrote a poem. It begins with a follower of Jesus in despair and ends on a note of hope.
Beaten, bruised, broken by force of Empire;
Pierced through with pain of spirit – if not flesh
In darkness, the saint’s exhausted head sinks low …
A sweating slave deep within Empire’s dark cave
Rips ore from heart of Heaven’s earth.
The mindless forge then forces flame
To melt and draw the iron.
Cold ingot thrust unfeeling into heat,
Compelled to take its shape by cruel design.
Cold again – a pointed spike – the Empire’s mindless tool awaits.
Calloused hands and hearts grasp unresisting hand.
The Empire’s point pierces through His willing flesh.
Bruised and bleeding in darkness He dies.
Empire’s aspirations arrive at the threshold of eternity.
Torn from His lifeless body,
A senseless spike removed declares Empire’s release.
Discarded – it drops to dirt unseen,
Its duty done.
The King of Heaven then laid to rest,
A trophy in Empire’s dark cave.
Remorseless to the end,
It seals his sole escape.
Then, against Empire's plan and power,
Deep within the darkened cave
bursts forth a beam of light.
From the silence of the tomb
erupt shouts of victory.
While there unseen upon the ground
That spike – with shame – its bloody rust
creeps back into the earth.
Something warm within the saint's darkness stirs –
The glimmerings called ‘Hope’.
Expressing light upon His throne
My King invites me to reach out – of pain –
caress the print upon His palm –
a sign of victory.
“Remember how he told you … ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again’” (Luke 24:6-7).
He is risen!
John B. MacDonald / Dr. John B. MacDonald has served for decades as a lawyer and pastor-teacher. He is an associate with Outreach Canada and focuses on equipping and encouraging others to become more like Jesus Christ and to live all of life with God-honoring competence and joy.