The Wondrous Cross
THE WONDROUS CROSS
When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but lost,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
This week we remember in a special way the wondrous cross and the glorious resurrection. With Isaac Watts, let’s take some time to survey that wondrous cross. What do you see when you survey the cross? The natural eye sees a Jewish man hanging on a Roman cross. Some see a good man, a moral example, a martyr for a cause, others a blasphemer claiming to be equal with God. When you survey the cross with the eye of faith, you see the greatest revelation of the Godhead in all of human history.
All three Persons of the trinity are revealed at the cross. The man hanging there is the incarnate Son of God. The Father arranged for Him to die on that cross. And the Spirit sustained Jesus as He offered Himself through the eternal Spirit to God the Father (Hebrews 9:14).
You see God sovereignly fulfilling His saving plan at the cross. Acts 4:28 says they did to Jesus whatever God had predestined to occur. The cross wasn’t a mistake. No, God planned the cross in the eternal council of the trinity, before the foundation of the world. All of human history under God’s sovereign control moved steadily forward to these six hours when Jesus would lay down His life for sinners.
The eye of faith sees God’s holiness and justice and wrath at the cross. Invisible to the naked eye, Jesus on that cross died because God imputed to Him all the sins of all the people who would believe in Him. And because God is holy and just and punishes sin, God’s wrath against our sins was unleashed on Jesus as our sin-bearer.
Some people deny that God the Father poured out His wrath on His own Son. They call it cosmic child abuse. But Isaiah 53:10 says “But the Lord was pleased to crush Him.” He did not spare His own Son but delivered Him up for us (Romans 8:32). Your sins and mine offended God’s holiness and that means God in His justice must punish sin.
What do you see when you survey the wondrous cross? God is pouring out His awful wrath on His own Son instead of us. Three hours of darkness filled the land that day. Out of that awful darkness, as God turned His back on His own Son because Jesus was made sin for us, Jesus screamed out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” Why? He was bearing our sins. He was made a curse for us, and God turned His face away. This is the very heart and core of God’s great plan of salvation.
Above all, the eye of faith sees the love of God for sinners revealed at the cross. If God didn’t love sinners, Jesus would not be hanging on that cross. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) God showed us how much He loved us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) Paul glories in Jesus’ love for him in Galatians 2:20, “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” When you survey that wondrous cross, rejoice in the loving mercy and grace and forgiveness of God for sinners.
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.
The eye of faith sees God’s victory at the cross over our deadliest enemy, sin. Jesus bore every drop of wrath against every sin of every believer while hanging on that cross. His victory cry on the cross was, “Tetelestai,” which means “paid in full.” God tore the veil in the temple from top to bottom, God’s sign to the Jews that the way into His presence is now open. Through the cross Jesus now brings us to God freely, without works, by pure grace and mercy alone, through faith alone.
The cross reveals the wisdom of God, His perfect plan to reconcile guilty sinners to Himself. He sovereignly planned it, He perfectly loves us there. His holiness and justice dealt with our sins there, His grace and mercy provided us forgiveness there. And God brings all who trust in His Son into His eternal fellowship, to live forever with Him. The resurrection three days later proved that the cross accomplished God’s purpose. Romans 4:25, “He was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.”
When we survey the wondrous cross, we bow and worship the invisible God who so gloriously revealed Himself there. We join Isaac Watts as he gladly confessed:
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.