July 16, 2017
I Cherish The Old Rugged Cross
Philippians 2:8-11; Galatians 6:14
Intro.: I can only recall his first name as Alister, yet his name is really not all that important tonight but I wish I had a picture of Alister because -- if a picture is worth a thousand words, this picture would drain the ink and fill the page with enthusiasm, excitement, peace and hope. It was his tear-filled eyes that told most of the story.
Diana and I met Alister in the Garden Tomb in 2011 on the last day of our Israel experience. Alister was our tour groups guide when we visited Golgotha where Jesus had been crucified and the empty tomb where Jesus had risen from the dead.
His face and his words told us the old, old story of Jesus. Yet, it was as if it had happened the day before. Like it had happened during his lifetime and he had personally witnessed it. To Alister the crucifixion and resurrection was real, it was personal. He knew all about it because of the knowledge he had learned and researched but he also knew it through experience because he believed it and wanted everyone else to believe it.
Diana and I did believe it – we had been believing for almost 40 years. But this day was different – this day was special. There we both stood in silence and in awe as we were drawn back to Scripture passages and words from familiar songs like “The Old Rugged Cross.”
As we stood in the Garden Tomb and had us focus on Golgotha, there we observed the image of a skull. Then he reminded us the walk that Jesus made up that mountain where He was crucified. He reminded us of the other two men that died with Jesus on that dark day.
Then, then he turned our attention and bodies to the tomb area. He told us we could walk in that tomb where Jesus was buried -- and this is when his tears of sorrow turned to tears of joy. He told us again we could go in that tomb and look for the body of Jesus but you will not find it – “because He’s not there.” It was evident that Alister loved Jesus, that he loved telling the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Making our way (halfway) through our Favorite Hymn messages we once again come to an old hymn, tracking its beginning following the Civil War days written in 1873 by George Bennard, “The Old Rugged Cross.”
It has been estimated by historians that during the reign of Pontius Pilate and Titus (40 years) at least 30,000 Jews were crucified. In the midst of all those criminals and crucifixions was One named Jesus.
So why is this cross special? Why do hymn writers choose to write about the cross that Jesus died on? Well we should know that the significance is not the cross, it’s not that it is an old, old cross. Rather, it’s because of the character and the person of the One who was nailed to the cross.
I. The Old Rugged Cross of Christ IS the Father’s Goal/Purpose
A. The old rugged cross was not a second thought from God the Father.
1. It was always a way to bring humanity back to Him.
2. The cross was not a second thought from God or a plan B.
3. The cross was planned before Genesis, before the creation, before Adam/Eve and yes before sin.
B. All and I mean ALL that Jesus endured was planned from His Father before anything existed.
1. Jesus leaving heaven, having a holy conception being born from a virgin was the goal of the cross.
2. Jesus incarnate, born of the flesh and walking on this earth and committing no sin was the goal of the cross.
3. His trials, His suffering and shame, the nails driven into His feet and hands, the crown of thorns pressed into His skull, the piercing of His side, was all part of bringing men back to Himself.
4. The old rugged cross of Christ was our Heavenly Father’s goal!
5. It was His divine plan.
II. The Old Rugged Cross of Christ WAS the Son’s Total Submission.
A. Philippians 2:5-11.
1. Without broken humility there is no submission and yet in humility there is complete submission.
2. Explain - Remember Jesus when he was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane?
3. “Father, if You are willing, take this cup away from Me.”
4. Does this verse speak of Jesus’ weakness, His rebellion?
5. Absolutely not! Rather it speaks of His willingness to obey, it screams submission.
6. Prayed, “Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.”
B. Jesus wasn’t trying to get out of the Father’s goal – that was part of His plan also.
1. He was helping to fulfill it.
2. He was preparing Himself for the deep darkness into which He would descend as He died for the sins of the world.
3. You can’t fall into complete submission and pretend to sweat drops of blood.
4. No one knows the agony Jesus suffered in that Garden, the agonizing words of the crowd yelling “Crucify, crucify Him.”
5. No one can feel the pain of nails that were driven through His hands and feet.
6. Yet Jesus did it all – He humbled himself and became submissive/obedient, even to the point of death.
7. Read or re-read Isaiah 53 and pause at each “Yet, & But.”
8. As you do quietly insert these words, “In His submission.”
9. Indeed it will cause you to cherish the old rugged cross of Christ.
III. The Old rugged Cross of Christ BECAME the Children’s Glory.
A. Hear me clearly – the cross does not become our idol.
1. The old rugged cross is not a piece of jewelry, a piece of furniture or a piece of artwork.
2. So we do not have an object that we build and worship.
3. Rather a better exercise is that we glory, we cherish the old rugged cross because of its goal.
4. “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Galatians 6:14.
B. The old rugged cross can be our glory!
1. It becomes our beauty when we see a cross stained with blood so divine.
2. The splendor of the cross becomes a wonderful attraction for the children of God.
3. We can cherish the old rugged cross when we know that one day we will exchange it for an imperishable and incorruptible crown.
4. No wonder Mr. Alister could stand in that Garden Tomb perhaps day after day and time after time and even year after year and speak of the old rugged cross and the empty tomb with tears in his eyes.
5. But God forbid that we should glory, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
C. We don’t boast in self, in our own righteousness.
1. We don’t boast in our own good works.
2. Children of God boast in the old rugged cross of Jesus.
3. We boast and we cherish in the old rugged cross because the old rugged cross brings the children of God real peace and real hope.
Conclusion: Nearly 145 years old yet the message of this great hymn is as new today! On this earth we cling and cherish the old rugged cross but one day in heaven it will be exchanged for a crown.