The Old Rugged Cross


The church has been blessed with so many wonderful hymns that picking a favorite is like picking a favorite child or grandchild. They are all different, and each has a special purpose.

But one of the older hymns with a special place in my heart is “The Old Rugged Cross.”

I remember it being one of my grandmother’s favorites, and its rich message and the gentle music that brings it to life have made it dear to me, too.

As we consider the crucifixion this Good Friday, there is one verse I return to as our world rejects the Gospel and the call from the Lord to righteousness, and that is this one:

“To the old rugged cross I will ever be true
It’s shame and reproach gladly bear
Then he’ll call me some day to my home far away
Where his glory forever I’ll share”

We focus on the physical suffering Jesus endured on Good Friday, and that is good, but it is not the whole story. If you watch the “Passion of the Christ”, the pain and agony is front and center. So much so that recreating it took a tremendous toll on actor Jim Caviezel. He needed two heart surgeries after filming.

I have always believed that Jesus suffered even more in His heart, mind, and soul. The shame and reproach we sing about in that verse remind us of that.

Jesus swallowed His pride and honor when He allowed religious leaders, regular people, and even the thief hanging next to Him to mock and taunt Him. He restrained Himself so much that He even prayed that the Father forgive them.

There was also great shame in being hung on the cross. Scripture declares a curse for anyone who is hung on a tree (see Deuteronomy 21:22-23). Also, Jesus had the shame of being hung without even the loin cloth He is often depicted as wearing.

But the greater reproach is that our Lord, who lived a life without sin, became sin for our sake and, for the first and only time in eternity, was separated from God the Father and God the Holy Spirit—the literal definition of hell.

I firmly believe that this was worse than anything that happened to His body. How can I know this? The Lord didn’t cry out to man or God at any other time. From the crown of thorns, the lashes of the cat of nine tales, or even when He was nailed to the cross.

It was only when God the Father turned His face from our Savior, and darkness fell on the earth that Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

We are drawing ever nearer to the return of the King. Soon, there will be a great tribulation, and mankind will unite in a great rebellion against the Creator of the universe. As the foundation for those days is being laid, more people reject the truth in favor of the lie.

This will lead to shame and reproach for the believer as good is declared evil and evil is good. It has been this way since the cross to some degree, but it will worsen as we approach the end.

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