The Meaning of the Nails on the Cross
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The Meaning of the Nails on the Cross

The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is the central event of the Christian faith. Jesus willingly went to the cross to die for the sins of humanity, providing the way for salvation and eternal life through faith in Him. An important symbol of the crucifixion are the nails that pierced Jesus’ hands and feet, binding Him to the wooden cross. For Evangelical and Charismatic Christians, the nails on the cross carry deep theological meaning about the nature of Jesus and what He accomplished through His suffering and death.

Key Takeaways:

  • The nails demonstrate that Jesus was fully human, able to experience intense physical pain and death.
  • The nails reveal the great love of God to become sin for us and restore our relationship with Him.
  • The nails secured Jesus to the cross so He could bear the punishment for our sins.
  • The nails highlight the sacrificial atonement Jesus made to satisfy God’s wrath against sin.
  • The nails ultimately show Christ’s complete submission to the will of the Father for our redemption.

The Humanity of Jesus

One profound meaning of the nails is that they demonstrate Jesus was fully human. As the divine Son of God, Jesus voluntarily took on human flesh so He could identify with us in every way, including suffering (Hebrews 2:14-18). The nails vividly reveal the humanity of Jesus, graphically showing His ability to experience intense physical pain, bleeding, and death. As Jesus’ hands and feet were pierced by the cold iron nails, He would have felt excruciating pain throughout His nerves and ligaments.

The wounds from the nails caused Jesus to bleed profusely, slowly draining away His life for six agonizing hours on the cross. The blood that dripped from Jesus’ pierced limbs poignantly symbolized the terrible cost of our salvation. Ultimately, the nails led to Jesus’ death, proving He was fully human and able to die like we do. The fully divine Son of God did not just appear to be human; He became flesh and blood (John 1:14) so He could take the punishment we deserved as our sacrificial substitute.

God’s Great Love and Sacrifice

In addition to demonstrating Jesus’ humanity, the nails on the cross also reveal the depths of God’s love for us and the high cost He was willing to pay to redeem us. According to the Bible, Jesus willingly endured the painful nails and allowed Himself to be crucified in order to make atonement for our sins:

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness; you have been healed by His wounds. (1 Peter 2:24)

Though completely innocent of any wrongdoing, Jesus took the punishment we deserved so we could be forgiven and set free from slavery to sin. As our substitute, He became sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The nails vividly represent Jesus taking the wrath of God against sin in our place out of profound, sacrificial love for us. The holy, just God could not simply overlook sin but required a blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22). So He sent His own perfect, beloved Son and placed our punishment on Him. The nails show how “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Securing Our Atonement

In addition to demonstrating Christ’s humanity and God’s great love, the nails had the practical purpose of securing Jesus to the wooden cross. Large iron nails were driven through the most sensitive nerves in Jesus’ wrists and feet, pinning Him to the cross so He could not escape the terrible death He willing endured. The nails held the Son of God on that cross for hours, ensuring His sacrificial death would be fully accomplished.

As Jesus hung on the cross unable to free Himself, He was taking on the full wrath of God against sin as the atoning sacrifice for the world (Romans 3:25). The nails ensured Jesus would remain on the cross and fully drink the cup of God’s anger against sin (Matthew 26:39). Without the nails pinning Him there, Jesus may have come down from the cross to avoid the horrific agony of crucifixion. But He willingly allowed Himself to be fixed there by nails so our salvation could be secured. The nails were a vital means of restraining Christ to complete the work of atonement.

The Wrath of God Satisfied

The purpose behind Jesus being nailed to the cross was to propitiate or satisfy the righteous wrath of God against sin that demands death (Romans 1:18). As the nails pinned Him to the cross, Jesus served as the perfect sacrifice that finally offered the payment needed to appease God’s wrath and make redemption possible.

The animal sacrifices under the Old Covenant law were unable to fully atone for sins (Hebrews 10:4). But Jesus as the spotless Lamb of God sacrificed Himself once for all, and His blood poured out from the nails in His hands and feet fully atoned for our sins, turning away God’s wrath (Romans 3:25). The nails fixing Jesus to the cross thus represent the sacrificial death required to propitiate or satisfy God’s just penalty against sin, opening the way for forgiveness.

Christ’s Submission to the Father

Finally, the nails represent Jesus’ supreme act of submission to the will of the Father to go to the cross for our salvation. Jesus explained:

For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from My Father. (John 10:17-18)

Though Jesus could have called down legions of angels to rescue Him from the cross (Matthew 26:53), He willingly allowed Himself to be nailed there in obedience to the Father’s plan. As Hebrews 12:2 says, “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” The nails vividly represent Jesus’ wholehearted submission to the Father’s will to endure the agonizing sacrifice of the cross to redeem us.

The nails on the cross carry profound theological meaning for believers, demonstrating Christ’s humanity, God’s great love, the atoning sacrifice for sins, and Jesus’ submission to the Father’s plan for our salvation. As we reflect on the crucifixion, may we be filled with praise, gratitude, and worship for what God accomplished through Christ pinned to the cross for us. The nails sealing Jesus to His sacrificial death on the cross are a constant reminder of the high price He paid to save us and bring us eternal life.

Pastor Duke Taber
Pastor Duke Taber

Pastor Duke Taber

All articles have been written or reviewed by Pastor Duke Taber.
Pastor Duke Taber is an alumnus of Life Pacific University and Multnomah Biblical Seminary.
He has been in pastoral ministry since 1988.
Today he is the owner and managing editor of 3 successful Christian websites that support missionaries around the world.
He is currently starting a brand new church in Mesquite NV called Mesquite Worship Center, a Non-Denominational Spirit Filled Christian church in Mesquite Nevada.