Today is Good Friday, the day on which many Christians turn their thoughts toward the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ and anticipate His glorious return to life three days later.
My husband and I are conducting a Good Friday service at our local nursing home later today. As I practiced the solo of “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross,” that I plan to sing for the service, the words of that great classic washed over me. In four short verses, the lyricist expresses his reaction to what Jesus chose to do.
When I sing, it’s all too easy for me to just sing the song, to focus on my elocution and my performance, to put a touch of vibrato in just the right places, and to forget the message of the words. I’ve sung to this cassette tape many times, but this time, the words overwhelmed me. Walk with me a few moments through the path of these lyrics. Let me share my inner thoughts with you:
When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died;
The cross. Just two boards. How those boards were used is what makes them special. Crucifixion is probably the cruelest execution method man has ever invented. That’s how Jesus died. And Jesus was not just another man. He wasn’t even just another innocent man. He was the Son of God, the Prince of Glory. Talk about going from the highest to the lowest!
It wasn’t forced on Him either. He did it because he wanted to. For me.
My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.
I think about all the things that are important to me. All my ambitions of what I want to be and who I want to become. Suddenly, in light of who Jesus is and what He did, it all sounds so pathetic, so useless, so petty, so . . . pretentious. All my accomplishments, the ones I want to be remembered most for, are nothing compared to what He did. No, the songwriter is not overstating when he writes “pour contempt on all my pride.” I’m feeling the same way. Utter disgust and repulsion at the insignificant things I take pride in.
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.
My accomplishments, my possessions, all those things I have chased after and boasted that I own or have or can do – oh God, forgive me that I would dare to boast about such stupid, insignificant things. Here you go, Lord. I’m willing to give them up to You. I humbly bow and move aside for You and Your greatness.
See, from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
What a dichotomy! Sorrow – grief, terrible grief. Love as well. My human mind can’t comprehend how both could be present on the cross. The greatest of sorrow. The utmost of love.
Or thorns compose so rich a crown.
At this point, I’m laughing with astonishment. How do we determine the value of things? Our world has assigned a value on gold and diamonds, I suppose because of the limited supply. Yet other simple things that are in abundance carry huge price tags. Think of the millions a Hollywood prop or a dress owned by royalty would bring at an auction. The value is not in the item itself but in who used it.
The most precious, high-dollar item in the world should be a crown made of thorns – because of who wore it and why He chose to claim it. It goes against every fiber of my carnal being, yet it is true. That fact turns my entire value system upside down. Now I’m at the point that I have nothing to boast about and everything that I thought had value is nothing. I am totally upended and bereft. What do I do? Where do I go from here? How do I respond to this God who gave His best for my worst?
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.
I feel so small, so insignificant, so undeserving. Nothing that I own compares to what Christ did for me. Any, every possession I have seems like nothing more than a pile of rubble, a ton of trash. Even if I was Bill Gates or Lady Diana, giving all that I own would not begin to match with what Christ gave me that one day. The only worthwhile thing I have to offer the God of Glory is myself.
The only response left to say to this wondrous cross is a simple, humble, tear-filled – “Thank you.”
Happy Easter, everyone.