Read His Words Before Ours!
Such a fancy-sounding word, simply meaning a contrast between two differing or opposing ideas. Why is this word important for today’s journey into worship? As we explore the hymn The Wonderful Cross, we uncover the incredible dichotomy of the cross of Jesus, simultaneously wonderful and horrible. Come, discover with me.
“When I survey the wondrous Cross
On which the Prince of Glory died
My richest gain, I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride.”
In Biblical times, there was nothing wonderful about a cross. It meant crucifixion, which was excruciatingly painful, while also publicizing the victim had committed a crime deserving a penalty of death.
Except Jesus committed no crime.
There was no sin to attribute to Him. (1 John 3:5)
However, human beings have sins to spare, and Jesus took every last, ugly, despicable one of them to that cross of death and shame. (Isaiah 53:5-6)
His holiness took on our sinfulness.
His righteousness was willingly offered in exchange for our unrighteousness when we embrace the cross. This place of death offers a slaying of our sin as we submit to His rule and reign! Anything we give up in this life to follow Him is a loss so we can gain eternity. (Philippians 3:7-9) Praise Him, the Prince of Glory!
“See from His head, His hands, His feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down
Did ever such love and sorrow meet?
Or thorns compose, so rich a crown.”
Jesus’ cross experience was filled with pain and suffering. Can you imagine being beaten with a whip laced with metal? (Mark 15:15) Picture a crown of thorns beaten into your head. (Mark 15:17-19) Then carry a cross beam on your wounded back, only to be nailed to it, and hung to die. Every drop of blood, from His head, hands and feet flowed from joyful obedience to the Father. He could have focused on the pain of the cross. Instead, He focused on the joy of it, because He was winning our salvation.
In the face of hatred and jealousy, He expressed love.
In response to the envy of the chief priests (Mark 15:10),
His fellow Jews yelling, “Crucify Him!” (Mark 15:12-14),
Roman soldiers mocking Him (Mark 15:20),
and crowds scoffing as He hung on the cross for their sins (Mark 15:29-32),
He offered His life for them all.
John 15:13 says, “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.”
Jesus, however, went beyond this definition. Romans 5:8 says,
“while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
While they were not His friends.
While we were not His friends.
He still laid down His life, because He loves us! Does it ever bring you to tears to think about someone, anyone, loving you so much? I can scarcely handle the thought of the most holy God loving sinful me that much. Yet He does! Glory!
“Oh the wonderful Cross, oh the wonderful Cross
Bids me come and die and find that I may truly live
Oh the wonderful Cross, oh the wonderful Cross
All who gather here by grace, draw near and bless Your name.”
The chorus mentions “gathering to bless His name.” This is what we do on Sundays at church, at Bible study, in small groups, and as we pray together throughout the week. We bless Him.
When we lay our problems down so He can handle them, we bless Him.
All made possible because of the wonderful cross that brought His brutal death and our freedom.
On the day Jesus died, people gathered at the foot of His cross, but their intention was not to bless. They drew near to mock the very One who could save them. Today, in light of what Jesus finished for us, we metaphorically gather at the foot of the cross to bless the very one who did save us. (Isaiah 53:5 and Isaiah 53:11)
“Were the whole realm of nature mine
That were an offering far too small
Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all.”
How do we respond to this costly, sacrificial love? In His horrific death, we find the most profoundly extravagant act of love and selflessness ever displayed.
I can think of three actions we can take in response.
First, accept the gift of salvation. Jesus paid a high price for us to spend eternity with Him. Let’s not leave His gift unaccepted and unopened.
Second, since Jesus died for us, we should die for others in sacrificial love. On a daily basis, we work toward dying to self and to our sin. Philippians 2:3 explains it best, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.” In a nutshell, dying to self means:
- Operating in humility
- Considering others before ourselves
- Placing others’ needs before ours
I warn you, it will feel like death. I’ve tried it!
But it’s nothing compared to the cross of Christ. So, let’s just do the thing, and live in the love of Jesus as we follow Him, okay?
Third, we can take hold of the life Jesus died to give us.
Let’s read our Bible and do what it says.
Let’s use our gifts for His glory, not ours.
Let’s press on toward the goal for the prize of following Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)
We can do this in honor of the wonderful cross and our beautiful Savior!
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!