When we delve into the meaning of the cross of Christ, we see a wonderful example of love through deep sadness.
But far be it from me to boast otherwise than in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…” – Galatians 6:14a (ESV).
The apostle Paul ended his letter to the Church of Galatia by focusing on the cross of Christ. Inspired by this passage, Isaac Watts wrote the song “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” in 1707. With the writing of this hymn, he was instrumental in helping the church of this day move from a single focus on the worship of the Psalms (metrical psalmody) to begin to include more gospel hymns that embraced the theology of Christ. and his gospel (hymnody). Since we just had Holy Week, a few days before Resurrection Sunday, I thought it would be appropriate to use Watts’ hymn as a lens to focus on the cross of Christ and how this concentration can transform human life.
The first and second stanzas: “When I gaze upon the wondrous cross, On which the Prince of glory died, My richest gain, I count only the loss, And pour contempt upon all my pride. Forbid it, Lord, let me boast, Except in the death of Christ my God! All the vain things that delight me most, I sacrifice to his blood. These verses echo Galatians 6:14. The apostle Paul and Watts declare that nothing is worth glorifying except the cross of Christ. Watts goes even further and renounces all that attracted him to this life, placing the crucifixion of Christ above all, declaring that all which charmed him, “I sacrifice to his blood”.
When was the last time you saw a person count their richest gain but their loss? Or pour contempt on all their pride? Or take the things we love most in this world and sacrifice them to His blood? Romans 6:3 (NLT) says, “…when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death…” Paul is not talking so much about a physical death, he is referring to a death to sin and the ideals of this world that separate us from God. The death of Christ on the cross frees us from the wages of sin, which is spiritual death. When we contemplate his cross, we not only see salvation but also an invitation to a new way of life. Our “death” to worldly ways of life opens a door to this new way of life. Let’s keep reading.
Stanzas three and four: “His hands, his feet, grief and love were mingled! Did such love and such grief meet, or thorns compose such a rich crown? All the kingdom of nature was it mine, it was a present far too small; Love so incredible, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.” These last two verses ask rhetorical questions about love expressed through grief. Has there ever been an example of love so powerful? Our innocent Savior taking upon himself not only our sin but also our punishment. Watts concludes that such a loving example should compel the believer to give his all.
In Matthew 26 we see Christ in the hours before his death on the cross. He laments to his Heavenly Father about the anguish he would soon face. Yet he declares his resolve: “If it cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.” The cross not only leads us to sacrifice our worldly desires, it compels us to adopt a new way of living, not for ourselves but for the will of God.
Galatians 6:15 tells us that when we allow the cross of Christ to be our focus and follow Christ’s example, then we can be “transformed into a new creation.” There is a definite progression of hope in the life of the believer. When we delve into the meaning of the cross of Christ, we see a wonderful example of love through deep sadness. We are inspired to let go of the things we think are important for the greater importance of loving Christ. We can then find not only the forgiveness of sins but also the transformation of life by allowing Christ to work in us.
Examining this wonderful cross leaves us with the following questions:
Have I thought about how the cross of Christ reveals his love for me?
Have I given up the things in this life that I value most for Christ’s sake?
Have I allowed the example of Christ to transform the way I think, speak, and live?
I would like to invite all of us to take the time to ponder and pray on these questions this week as we remember the crucifixion of our Lord and gaze upon his wondrous cross.
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