Sunday, March 5, 2017

Rugged

There they nailed Him to the cross. Two others were crucified with him, one on either side, with Jesus between them. 19 And Pilate posted a sign on the cross that read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” John 19:18-19
There are many words that come to mind when I think about Easter. There are childhood words such as
Baskets, Bunnies and chicks, Cadbury eggs, Frilly clothes, Sunrise service and Family Dinner.
There are also those words I've come to know so dear and so true. Crucifixion. Sacrifice. Three days later. Empty tomb. Risen.
And then there are words that go beyond. Words I understand better the deeper I walk by faith. New life. Hope. Because He lives. Love so deep, so wide. Forgiven. Changed. Victory.
I love them all. They are words etched into my heart that sing over me from time to time. They are a continuous melody of hope and love. But this year I have been drawn to another word. A word that holds incredible significance. It comes from a hymn cherished and worn by the voices in my own family.
On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross.
I stop and ponder that adjective. The cross is many things, but I love that here it is called rugged. In my mind I see the rugged pieces that make up the resurrection story. I see a rugged carpenter stepping into His life's mission at the ripe age of 33. I see a rugged group of followers deemed common by the world but living a life like no other. I see a broken people bridged together by two rugged beams and a handful of nine inch nails. There are Romans, Jews and the modern centuries all looking for the same things, suffering from the same afflictions of the heart. Indeed, rugged is the perfect description for all that surrounds Jesus as His earthly life comes to an end.
And then we come to the Cross. That beautiful, old, rugged cross. The place at which a new definition of love is born. A spot of sacrifice and atonement; at where yesterday is forgotten and tomorrow is anticipated because He lives. Because He loves.
Splintered wood, rough to the touch balances on the back of a beaten down Jesus. The rest of humanity rests on His shoulders. The cross, the worst death possible reserved for the lowliest criminals contrasted with Jesus, our best chance for life everlasting. The beams reserved for a horrendous job. Jesus born to be the light. One rugged. One perfect. Together they write the story of hope for all of humanity.
The Cross was simply a rugged piece of wood, yet it became one of the most beautiful symbols throughout the world. I love that the cross was rugged, ragged and jagged because we are too. We come just as we are, just like a rugged beam full of splinters and nails and Christ transforms us into something beautiful when we encounter Him. One touch and we are changed. His blood stains cover our imperfections. His death gives us life. His power turns us from a tool of torture to an instrument of purpose. I believe Jesus died on a rugged cross to show us that not one of us is too rugged to reach for Him. To call to Him. To give Him our hearts.
Those lyrics wash over me time and time again:
So I'll cherish the Old Rugged Cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the Old Rugged Cross
And exchange it someday for a crown
Maybe it's just the Easter season we are in. Maybe it's that I've been watching the story of Jesus on TV as I write this. Maybe it's just the need in me to find metaphors, but those words sound a lot like a love song from a Savior to His people. A Savior that cherishes His rugged cross and longs to exchange it for a crown. I've always thought of the Rugged Cross as those wooden beams used to kill Christ but perhaps Jesus saw it as you and me. Perhaps He saw a rugged humanity in need.
Cherish the Rugged Cross. It may have been located on a hill far away but today it dwells in reach for us all. It stands throughout the ages as a symbol of hope. Happy Easter 2016!
-Only Hope

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