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Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Shepherd's Heart: The wondrous cross

Thursday, April 2, 2009

During these days, as we meditate on the suffering of our Lord and Savior prior to His death, burial and resurrection, I am reminded of an old hymn that ministers to me in a way many of the newer songs of celebration cannot. It is called "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross."

With words by Isaac Watts and music by Lowell Mason, it is a masterful work. John Wesley, that great writer and composer of many of the songs we grew up with in our churches, reportedly said he would give up all his other hymns to have written this one.

"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.

"Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

"See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

"Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all."

As I look to the cross, I wonder what our heavenly Father might have thought about the cross where His only begotten Son was put to death. I'm afraid He didn't see what we think of when we consider the cross of crucifixion.

We use the cross as decoration on and in and around our house of worship. We dangle crosses from around our necks and tattoo them onto our skin. We "glory" in the cross. We see in it the hope of our salvation and the remission of our sins through the blood that flowed there.

But, when God the Father looked at the cross, I don't believe he saw His own handiwork. He saw a shameful, cruel Roman Cross of Crucifixion. He didn't see the glorious work of salvation being poured out through the blood of His Son. He didn't see a symbol of salvation and love and hope. He didn't see a church adornment or a piece of diamond encrusted gold jewelry.

When God looked upon the cross he saw shame and sin and death. He saw all that was wrong with a world gone bad. He saw shame and guilt and filth. He saw every sin ever committed from the beginning of history.

He saw rape and murder and backstabbing and gossip and child pornography and human slavery and lying and manipulation and spousal abuse and child molestation and endless drunkenness and incest and fornication.

And the Bible says He couldn't bear to look upon it all.

He turned His face away from His only begotten son.

Jesus even cried out from the cross "My God, why have you forsaken me?"

When I survey the wondrous cross, I see it through grateful eyes, knowing that my hope of salvation rested there.

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BOB G. STEWART, Columnist
The Shepherd's Heart