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Surveying the Wondrous Cross

Written by | March, 2011
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We are entering what many consider to be their favorite season of the church year – the season of Lent.

Isn’t it interesting that some appreciate the somber season of Lent more than the excitement of a newborn Savior at Christmas? Or the exuberant joy of victory over death at Easter? Without Lent Christmas would be irrelevant; without Lent we would not know the full joy of Easter.

Lent is a season of quiet reflection. Apart from the hype and celebration of other seasons, Lent is an opportunity to focus on the full extent of God’s amazing love. As one of our hymns puts it, Lent is a time to “survey the wondrous cross.”

To survey something is more than to look it over and get a general picture of it. When we survey something, we measure it carefully to discover the exact length and width, the depth and height of it. We want to know and understand it inside and out.

…we can’t possibly comprehend the love of God unless we fully “measure the meaning” of the cross of Christ.

That is what we Lutheran Christians do with the cross of Christ during the holy season of Lent. At the cross we get a true measure of our own life and worth.

In general, when we measure ourselves, we tend to use an exaggerated measuring rod. We like to compare ourselves with others and usually come out looking pretty good in our own eyes (“I go to church and give my offerings to the Lord.”  “I don’t get drunk or curse or do any of the things that the people of the world do.”).

When we have some quarrel with another person, don’t we tend to see ourselves as the innocent victim? Or do we feel sorry for ourselves because we have been misunderstood or mistreated and don’t deserve this kind of treatment? Do we maybe play through our own words and actions in our mind and conclude that we were right all along?

Well, when (as the hymn puts it) we “survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died,” we see the true measure of ourselves and “pour contempt on all our pride.” We find that there is nothing in us that measures up to God’s glory or that enables us to feel good about ourselves before God.

The Full Extent of God’s Love

It is at the cross where we see that our lives and our sins were so miserable and such an abomination to God that nothing less than the bitter suffering and death of God’s own Son could make up for them.

May we never glory or boast in ourselves or think of ourselves more highly than others; rather, let us glory and boast in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, for in the cross of Christ we see the full extent of God’s great love.

Have you ever noticed that even people who don’t really believe in God like to talk about the love of God? Yet we can’t possibly comprehend the love of God unless we fully “measure the meaning” of the cross of Christ.

What an amazing view of our Savior: “See, from His head, His hands, His feet, SORROW AND LOVE flow mingled down”!

See how our Savior willingly went with His enemies, knowing full well the torture they would inflict on Him. He silently endured their abuse and shame.

See how He prayed for His persecutors while the lifeblood was draining from His own body!

Marvel how He bore the full brunt of God’s anger and punishment for the world of sinners. Never was a love like His!

So take time to “survey the wondrous cross” during this wonderful season. The cross gives us a sorrowing look at ourselves but it also gives a warm and wonderful view of Christ’s love for us. Such a view of the cross gives great joy to the resurrection on Easter and fills us with love and devotion to our Savior, for (as another of our hymns puts it) “love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” ?