Cottrell, Stephen. The Nail: Being Part of the Passion. SPCK, London. 2011. 74 pages.
The Nail is a simple, imaginative, and eminently readable devotion in the tradition of publications specifically targeted for use in church communities during Lent.
The book is constructed around seven key gospel characters: Peter, the Roman centurian, Pontius Pilate, Ciaphas, Judas, Mary Magdalene, and Pilate’s wife. Each chapter is dedicated to one of these and includes a Gospel reading, an Old Testament reading, an imaginative first-person reflection by the character, and a final poem of response.
The heart of each chapter lies in these first person reflections. Each character is imagined presenting an impassioned justification of their role, not matter how great or small, in the events of Good Friday. There is a lot of buck-passing and the message of unwillingness to accept responsibility becomes a challenging and confronting reality. The final chapter, entitled ‘Will you let Jesus forgive you?’, encapsulates the direction and purpose of the entire book. The Nail is not simply an historical study. Rather, it written from the heart and asks the reader to accept and personalise their role in the death of Jesus. Given the book’s brevity and devotional style, one would have to suggest that it is far from the last word on its topic. It is, however, a powerful and creative introduction that could inspire significant, heart-felt, in-depth conversation on the cross of Christ.
I found The Nail to be a stark reminder of the ease with which we pass blame and become compromised. In the context of Easter it is also a stark reminder of the Jesus who died for each of us. The book’s story style makes this message widely accessible and, indeed, adaptable to different contexts. These could easily include youth studies, camp liturgies, or adult Bible studies. The final part is worth careful consideration by leaders as it offers tried and considered suggestions as to how this offering could be creatively utilised.
The Nail, as it postscript suggests, has the potential to invite people from all walks of life into a meaningful and significant relationship with the Jesus of Easter.