Sunday, April 24, 2011

Victory in Jesus


You have crushed beneath your heel the vile serpent, ¹
You have carried to the grave the black stain; ²
You have torn apart the temple's holy curtain, ³
You have beaten death at death's own game. 
- From "Hosanna" by Andrew Peterson

¹ And I will put enmity between thee [the serpent] and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.  Genesis 3:15
² ...Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures...  I Corinthians 15:3-4
³ Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.  And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent...  Matthew 27:50-51
...Death is swallowed up in victory.  I Corinthians 15:54

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Near the Cross



O sacred Head, now wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded,
With thorns Thine only crown.
How pale Thou art with anguish,
With sore abuse and scorn!
How doth Thy visage languish
Which once was bright as morn!

Don't old English words like "sore abuse" and "visage languish" seem more apt to describe the grisly, stomach-turning crucifixion of Christ than the casual American English of 2011?  

The stanza above is part of the standard translation of a 12th-century hymn originally written in Latin.  A few days ago, I listened to Chuck Swindoll read these words—part of a special series of Easter-themed messages on KEY Radio.  He then made an observation to the effect that nobody is writing hymn texts like that nowadays.

It's not just the quaint vocabulary he was referring to; rather, I think his point was that we as the modern-day Church have generally settled into a religion of comfort, and we hesitate to dwell on our Savior's suffering.  It is simply too uncomfortable to think about anyone—much less God!—whose flesh was torn, whose nakedness was exposed, whose bones were broken without either anesthesia or pity.  Indeed, we embrace what the Cross purchased for us (reconciliation with a holy God) without understanding the enormity of the cost paid physically by Christ.

Dr. Swindoll's remarks got me thinking, as they often do.  Is it true that songs about Jesus' suffering and humiliation are not being written by my generation of believers?  Of course, I cannot speak authoritatively; I can only make the unscientific observations of a music-lover and occasional radio deejay.  But sadly, I must agree there is a void of songwriting here.

Building a playlist for KEY that afternoon, however, I found a few notable exceptions to what I fear is the rule.  "Blessed Redeemer," by Mark Hall and Bernie Herms does not shy away  from Christ's pain: "I see him on Calvary's tree, wounded and bleeding..."  Nor did Chad Cates, Todd Smith, and Tony Wood sugarcoat the crucifixion when writing, "Beautiful Terrible Cross."  (An aside: hymn-lovers will notice the Selah version of this song incorporating musical phrases of the old Fanny Crosby hymn "Near the Cross"—subtly paying tribute to the generation- and culture-spanning power of Jesus' death.)

One more thought: balance.  We should meditate on both the Cross and what it accomplished.  Contemplating Christ's agony does little good when I don't apply its ramifications to my life.  Because Jesus willingly died on the cross (and rose again! that's a whole other post), I have victory over sin, Satan and death!  What is more worthy of song?

And so I share with you these few songs about different aspects of the Cross.  As they have done for me, may they help you to "fix your eyes on Jesus... who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself" (Hebrews 12).


(Please forgive the commercial inserted before the final song.  "Free salvation" means no strings attached; not so with "free music player.")


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