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Gospel Gazette Online
Vol.  11  No. 1 January 2009  Page 12                    powered by FreeFind

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On a Hill Far Away

By Emanuel Daugherty

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,

The emblem of suffering and shame;

And I love that O1d cross where the dearest and best

For a world of lost sinners was slain

Emanuel DaughertyThe hymn from which the above lines are taken brings the reader to the image of the cross on Golgotha and the personal, precious gift of life offered that day. In our minds there must be an ever fixed image of the Lord at the cross—not as a morbid fascination with suffering or a macabre specter of human loss, but as an event whose significance has shaped the destiny of humanity.

The Book tells us that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was there, and one can imagine the tremendous emotions washing through her as she helplessly watched her Son die. Were we to be transported back as silent observers of that scene, what would we witness that would etch itself into our memories and deepen both our appreciation for and sadness at such a moment? We would see:

One Lord. Everything that day centered upon the one Lord and His treatment at the hands of His enemies. Their efforts to remove Him as an influence by His execution failed, for posterity knows that only one Master exists, and He offered Himself on that day (Acts 4:12).

Two Thieves. There were two crucified alongside Jesus, and they, by self-admission, deserved this penalty. At first, they cast insults and aspersions to Christ (Mark 15:32), but apparently as time passed, one of them reconsidered. In Luke 23:39-42, the one acknowledged that Jesus was wrongly condemned, even asking that Jesus might remember him. Christ made the famous promise, “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” At least one person seemed to awaken to both the error and the opportunity present that day.

Three Crosses. Isaiah 53:4 says, “Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows, yet we did esteem him stricken smitten of God and afflicted.” In looking at that day’s proceedings, we see Jesus casting His lot with humanity, coming to relieve our suffering due to sin. With His own cross situated in the midst those of the thieves He was truly “Immanuel”—“God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

Four Soldiers. While the Lord was suspended from the tree, four soldiers were at the foot of the cross, entirely missing the significance of what was transpiring (John 19:23-24). Casting lots for the mundane, they were oblivious to the truth that Jesus was shedding His blood for humanity. How many repeat their error in seeing only the common in Christ, while missing the eternal significance of His sacrifice?

Five Close Friends. Though the soldiers were unaware, five of Jesus’ closest friends and followers, including His mother, were there, captivated by this terrible drama (John 19:25-27). In an amazing irony, they were no doubt feeling sorrow for Him, while He gazed down with concern for them!

Six Hours. From Mark 15:25 and Matthew 27:46-50 we learn that Jesus remained upon the cross, suffering, for about six hours that Friday; the crucifixion itself occurred about 9 a.m., and He passed way about 3 p.m. What an amazing period of both suffering and also temptation! He had said that He could have called legions of angels to His rescue, but did not allow Himself to do that in all those hours. Instead, He schooled Himself to finish the task the Father had assigned. Would that everyone remained as committed to doing the divine will.

Seven Sayings. Perhaps you are already acquainted with some of the statements of Christ from the cross. However, seen in their fullness they represent depths of love and emotion that is both very human and very worthy of the divine.

  1. Words of Forgiveness: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34)
  2. Words of Salvation: “To day thou shalt be with me in paradise”(Luke23:43)
  3. Words of Affection and Concern: “Woman, behold thy son…behold thy mother” (John 19:26-27)
  4. Words of Commitment: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
  5. Words of Suffering: “I thirst” (John 19:28)
  6. Words of Victory: “It is finished” (John 19:30)
  7. Words of Confidence: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46)

What tremendous range of concern, sentiment, and determination on behalf of humanity these comments reflect.

At the end of His life, the significance of all that occurred was observed by an impartial figure present that day—the Roman centurion, who stated “Truly this was the son of God” (Matthew 27:54). If ever an image were universally held in mind, surely it should be this one. The destiny of all humanity revolves around this scene and its implications. So our lives should revolve. May we each be able to sing the words of the hymn that so poignantly calls to mind the tremendous significance of that day’s events, and in so doing, express out commitment to live in honor of that sacrifice. 

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