“On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame; And I love that old cross where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain. O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world, has a wondrous attraction for me; For the dear Lamb of God, left His glory above to bear it to dark Calvary. So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, til my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it some day for a crown. “
(The Old Rugged Cross, George Bernard)
I’m not sure how often we consider the irony of the cross. There was one of the most cruel forms of execution ever devised, and it has become a symbol of hope for so many for now more than 2000 years. It is indeed a symbol of suffering and shame, but it is also, for those who trust in the Christ of that cross, the symbol of a sacrifice paid on our behalf that has purchased our salvation.
In nearly every Christian church you will find a cross. It may be on a steeple on the roof, it may have another prominent place on the outside of the building, and likely you’ll find it inside too, maybe as decorative pieces here and there, but always as reminders of what was done out of God’s incredible love for us. You’ll see a cross on a necklace for many people, some who may have little understanding of what that symbol means, but it is there nonetheless.
We’ve refined it, smoothed it out, covered it with brass or gold, and made it look beautiful. There are stunning images of crosses that are incredible works of art, but they are still crosses—still what was once one of the most crude cruel forms of execution ever devised.
Since our narthex remodel project a year or so ago, we have had a rather crude, rough large wooden cross hanging on the wall at the top of the stairs of the main entrance. As you look up the stairs, you can’t miss it. It is a reminder of the price paid for us so that we don’t take that act for granted. That’s the purpose of the cross today—to help us to remember.
The first two verses are quoted above. Here’s the third verse: “In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine, a wondrous beauty I see; For ‘twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died to pardon and sanctify me.” Jesus went to that cross, and His only apprehension that we find was when He prayed in the garden, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) He went to the cross in obedience to the Father, knowing the love of His Father for we who would be His children who desperately needed someone to pay for our sins.
There is great irony in the cross. The cross, that old rugged, crude, horrible, blood stained, wonderful, sin pardoning, life-giving, life changing cross. I hope when you see it, whenever or wherever you see it, that you remember, and take even just a second to whisper a prayer of thanksgiving to God for what it means,--for what it means to you individually. One day, we will exchange it for a crown. I look forward to that day. I hope you do too.
By His Grace Alone,
Pastor Bruce Jacobsen