The Old Rugged Cross // Good Friday [Holy Week]

The Old Rugged Cross
Author: Josh Rhodes, Community Life Pastor 
Day 6: Good Friday
Scripture Reading: Matthew 27:1-14, 26-61
Growing up in the small Baptist church my father pastored, I fondly remember singing an old hymn entitled, The Old Rugged Cross. Written in 1912 by a pastor named George Bennard, its words still resonate deeply. The first verse goes like this:

"On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame; and I love that old cross where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain."

On this sacred and somber day that we call "Good Friday," let's consider the Biblical truth of this hymn as we reflect on what Jesus accomplished for us on The Old Rugged Cross.

"On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,"

It was on Golgotha, the place of the skull, that Jesus was crucified. But before His hands and feet were nailed to the cross, He endured unimaginable pain. Matthew 27 recounts the crucifixion, echoed in the other three Gospels: Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 18-19. In Matthew 27:26-31, we read that Jesus was stripped, flogged (whipped 39 times with a whip designed to tear apart flesh), mocked, had a crown of thorns forced onto His head, and was spat upon. Matthew 27:31 tells us, "When they had mocked Him, they stripped Him of the robe, put His clothes on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him." We often focus on the crucifixion itself, but the preceding hours of suffering were equally agonizing.

"the emblem of suffering and shame"

The cross isn't just another symbol to wear on a necklace—it is the emblem, a symbol of suffering and shame. The Roman cross, cruel and infamous, remains one of history's most inhumane ways to torture and execute someone. We know from harmonizing the four Gospel accounts that Jesus was nailed to the cross at 9:00 am and died at 3:00 pm. For hours leading up to the cross, and for those six long hours nailed on the cross, He endured shame and suffering in every imaginable way—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Yet through His agony, Jesus exemplified His love for humanity, willingly enduring the cross for the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2).

"and I love that old cross where the dearest and best"

Jesus is indeed the dearest and the best! Fully God and fully man, He lived a sinless life marked by grace, truth, and love. 1 Corinthians 5:21 states, "He (God) made the One (Jesus) who did not know sin to be sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." This is why we sing of Jesus being the best—because He is! His selflessness and love shown on the cross are unparalleled, forever defining what true love and sacrifice look like.

"for a world of lost sinners was slain."

This is why Jesus died on that Good Friday 2,000 years ago—for a world of lost sinners, including me, you, and everyone else. Romans 3:23 reminds us, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." According to Romans 6:23, the penalty for sin is death. But the Good News is this: "But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!" (Romans 5:8).

Through His agony, Jesus exemplified His love for humanity, willingly enduring the cross for the joy set before Him.

So friends, on this Good Friday, if you are already a Christian, I encourage you to thank God for sending Jesus and worship Jesus for laying down His life for you. If you are not yet a believer, I encourage you to place your faith in Jesus, who died in your place for your sins on The Old Rugged Cross. The reason why He sacrificially, willingly, and lovingly laid down His sinless life was to pay our sin debt and make it possible for us to have a relationship with God, beginning now and lasting for all eternity.

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