Surveying the Cross

This month, as a part of our family Bible time, we have been singing, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” This old hymn by Isaac Watts is often sung before the Lord’s Supper and always drives me to introspection. The main thought of the song is that the cross of Jesus is of such value in the lives of God’s people that nothing else compares.

The first verse says,
“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.”

There is nothing so good, so rich, or so wonderful that it compares to the glory and greatness of the cross. Every good thing in which we take pride becomes pale in comparison to the pride we gain in His sacrifice.

The second verse continues,
“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.”

Only in the sacrifice of Jesus can we even find something worth bragging about. Paul says to “boast in the Lord” (1 Cor 1.31). What else is there? My accomplishments mean nothing without God’s sacrifice.  

Watts’ third verse reads,
“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?”

What a beautiful image! As we picture the blood and sweat pouring from his face, we can also picture this as the love and sorrow of Jesus. His love held Him on the cross. His sorrow was for our sins, which He bore (cf. 1 Pet 2.24). Such love and sacrifice makes His crown of thorns more valuable than any crown worn throughout all of ­human history.

The last verse says,
“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.”

We owe everything to the sacrifice of Jesus.

This sacrifice was planned since before time began (cf. Eph 3.11). His sacrifice was promised to so many Old ­Testament heroes. His sacrifice made our salvation possible. This is why Paul says that while the world demands God to reveal Himself in ways corresponding to human wisdom, Paul resolves to tell the story of Christ crucified (cf. 1 Cor 1.23). While this might not be appreciated by a world seeking stories of entertainment, power, wisdom, or intrigue, it will be the very power that saves from sin (cf. Rom 1.16). It is the story of which we should ever tire and should be told anew continually. It is the story we should sing for ages to come. Every time each of us “surveys that wondrous cross” we should willingly give “our soul, our life, our all.”