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.
(First verse, ‘The Old Rugged Cross’)
Christianity is a religion of the cross. The cross of Jesus Christ is what separates Christianity from every other religion. All other religions are fundamentally a religion of works: man’s failed attempts to get to God, in the main by trying to do good works. The cross, however, speaks of God’s successful attempt to get to man. Christianity is indeed the true story of a God who loved us so much that, seeing us lost in our sins with no way out, He came to live amongst us, ultimately dying a brutal death in our place as our substitute sacrifice.
The cross – stained with blood so divine – is a place of death. But it is also a place of life – and that’s why we also see beauty in that old rugged cross. On the cross Jesus died the death we should have died that we may access the life that He lives. On the cross Jesus was made sin with our sinfulness that we might be made righteous with His righteousness. And on the cross Jesus was made a curse that we might receive His blessing.
The Bible tells how we deserve punishment, wounding, death, poverty, shame and rejection, but through the marvellous accomplishment of the cross, Christ instead gives us forgiveness, healing, life, abundance, glory, and acceptance. On the cross there was a divinely ordered exchange: Jesus took all the evil that was due us that we might enjoy all the good due Him.
This is why the cross is a place of triumph; though to the world it was the symbol of shame and definition of defeat, the cross is actually Christ’s vehicle of victory: Satan has been defeated. And because of Christ’s triumph on the cross, we are saved. Because of the triumph of the cross, we are free. Because of the triumph of the cross, we now have full access to God. That’s why, in the words of the famous hymn by George Bennard, “that old rugged cross, so despised by the world, has a wondrous attraction for me… for ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died, to pardon and sanctify me”.
We are not saved by church membership, baptism, good works, religion or ritual but only by the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross. This Easter I want to encourage you to contemplate that old rugged cross. Fix your eyes upon your bleeding Saviour – the sinless Son of God – and behold the glorious justice of God in laying our guilt upon Him that we might receive full pardon from our sins.
But every day, resolve to keep the cross of Jesus Christ central. For the cross is not just an Easter adornment, or an item of jewellery that one wears around the neck, or an artefact to bow down to in a church building; the cross is the central focus of the Christian life “where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain” (words from ‘The Old Rugged Cross’).
Lord Jesus, we thank you for the triumph of your cross!
by Dominic De Souza