This week's Paper Pulpit has been written by Pastor David Purse, Cullybackey Elim Church

OVER the past few years there has been many a sharp intake of breath by horrified parents as their children have come home sporting the latest craze of 'body piercing.'

A stud in the side of the nose, a ring through the eyebrow or lip, not to mention a stud through the tongue or even small bars through the nose or belly.

"What possessed you to get that done?", screamed one exasperated mother.

"Don't you know, mum, it's all the fashion."

But there was nothing fashionable about the body piercing that was involved in capitol punishment - Roman style. So brutal was this death that Roman citizens who fell foul of their own law and where sentenced to death, were spared the crucifixion. This method of capitol punishment was designed to allow the victim to suffer the maximum pain for the maximum of time. Crucifixion has been called, 'a lingering doom by design.'

The victim was first tied by means of the rope to the cross before each hand was pierced with a large spike. The feet of the squealing victim were then over-lapped and one large spike hammered through both feet and into the wood. Skin and flesh rupturing and haemorrhaging, bone and cartilage splintering and unimaginable pain.

What a truly amazing book the Bible is! Over a thousand years before the events of that first so-called 'Good Friday', the shepherd king, David was allowed by God to look down the telescope of time and behold the manner of death, God's Son would endure as He provided atonement for our sins. In David's time crucifixion was unheard of, but God revealed it to him and God put the words in his mouth, "they pierced by hands and my feet."

Not only did the soldiers pierce those precious hands; hands that in eternity had flung stars and galaxies into their orbits, and not only did they pierce his lovely feet but the evangelist John records, "but one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear and immediately blood and water came out." A sac of fluid surrounds the heart and this accounts for the blood and water that flowed from the Saviour's side. The Roman spear pierced the sac of fluid and then ruptured His heart.

Dr Trueman Davis, a medical doctor, "........from the escape of watery fluid from the sac surrounding the heart, we have rather conclusive post mortem evidence that Christ died of heart failure."

Upon His removal from the cross, the spikes were removed, but they had left their unmistakable mark. Today His piercings remind us of the great price paid - the shedding of His blood and the death that a person upon repentance and exercising of faith alone in Christ may be forgiven, converted and made an inheritor of Christ's Kingdom.

But His body piercings were also the marks His doubting disciples were convinced by, some days later when risen from the dead, He appeared to them. Doubting Thomas had determined, "Unless I see in His hands the prints of the nails and put my hand into His side, I will not believe." It was a good test and Jesus knowing that He had said it invited Thomas to do just that when He appeared to Him eight days later.

One day soon, just as Jesus said, He will come again in majesty and glory to set up His kingdom. This old world and all its earthly system will pass away. The only thing from this old world that will be allowed in the new heavens and the new earth will be the scars from the body piercing inflicted on Him on the cross. For even throughout the countless ages of eternity, lest we forget, each time He would lift His hand we shall see the price He paid for our soul's salvation.

When we see the scars caused by His body piercings we might ask like the exasperated mother, "Lord what possessed you to get that done?" To which He will surely reply, "You have possessed me to have these done." Amen.