Tradition has it that three nails were used to hold Jesus to the cross – one in his right hand, one in the left, and one for his feet. But there was something else that held him there, too.
Three of the Gospel writers say that passers-by who saw Jesus on the cross derided him saying things like, “Save yourself and come down from the cross.” I think that some of those folks were mocking Jesus but I imagine others wanted to see him perform another miracle. That is interesting because it suggests they thought Jesus had the power to remove himself from the torture instrument of the cross and to save his life. Why anyone would mock that kind of power from God is baffling to me.
I believe, as most of us do, that Jesus is God in human flesh; that God has total power and that God through Christ can do anything. Certainly making the nails disappear would have been well within Jesus’ power. After all, Jesus calmed the storm that nearly sank the boat the disciples were on. The disciples said to themselves in amazement, “Who is this; the winds and water obey him.” (Lk 8:25)
Speaking of power over water, Jesus actually walked on it. (Matthew 14, Mark 6, John 6)
The devil tempted Jesus to turn a stone into bread indicating the devil believed Jesus had power to change one object into another. (Mt 4:3, Luke 4:3)
Speaking of molecular physics, Jesus turned water into wine. (John 2)
He turned two loaves of bread into enough to feed more than 5,000 people. (Mt 14, Mk 6, Lk 9, Jn 6)
And then there are the numerous, uncountable, healings – withered hand, leprosy, sickness which leads to death, high fever, hemorrhaging, blind to seeing, lame to walking, severed ear, dead to life.
The reading of minds – “Jesus, knowing their thoughts said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts?’” (Mt 9:4)
And, one of my favorite miracles, the ability to disappear. (Luke 4:30, John 5:13, 8:59, 10:39, 18:6-7)
With the power to do those things, Jesus could easily have removed himself from the cross. In addition, there were angels who helped Jesus during his forty days in the wilderness. I believe angels were present with him on Golgotha. Jesus said that at his command, twelve legions of angels would protect him. (Mt 26:53) But, he goes on to explain that if he used his power to benefit himself that the Scriptures would not be fulfilled.
Unlike angels, Jesus had free will. The nails would not have held him had he been inclined to remove himself from the cross. So, what held him there? It was explained to me that compassion, mercy and love held Jesus to the cross. And thus, even if we’ve tried to remove ourselves from God, Jesus won’t leave us, ever.
Even in our disobedience, those things that hold Jesus to us are compassion, mercy and love.