Songs About the Cross

My wife likes to joke that I have a jukebox in my head, because there is often some song stuck in my mind, and any number of things can bring a song to my mind at just about any time. This morning I woke up with the lyrics from “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” running through my head. Specifically, the line, “It was my sin that held him there,” kept repeating. This song was written by Stuart Townend, in my opinion one of the best contemporary hymn writers, and has been recorded by many recording artists. It is a powerful song, one that I enjoy singing and that always makes me stop and consider the cost of my salvation and the immeasurable gift of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

As I was singing this song to myself this morning, though, I began to think about the fact that the line I mentioned above is not really accurate. It really was not my sin that held him there. That would imply, after all, that sin was powerful enough to keep Christ on the cross–that sin was more powerful than the Son of God–and that simply is not true. Interestingly, as I looked up the lyrics online this morning I found two separate versions of that particular line. Some have it as I learned it, and was singing it this morning. Others, however, have that line as, “It was my sin that left him there.” Unfortunately, Stuart Townend does not have the lyrics for his songs on his own web site, so I could not “go to the source,” as it were to see how he wrote it.

Please note that, whichever way Mr. Townend wrote it, I am not criticizing the song. It is full of powerful and thought-provoking truth, and I am thankful for the song. I also recognize that song writers use some artistic license to craft the lyrics of their songs. I am simply trying to make two points, both of which struck me this morning: (1) I often sing songs without stopping to consider the accuracy of the words, and (2) the death of Jesus Christ on the cross was an incredible sacrifice, but one that was made willingly.

Because I am well acquainted with the story of the death of Jesus Christ, I have sung the lyrics to Townend’s song numerous times (the variation that says “held him there”) without ever even recognizing what I was really saying–because my sin did not hold Jesus on the cross. Since I do have so many songs in my mental jukebox, though, this immediately got me thinking about the lyrics to other songs about the cross. There are many, many such songs, and it took no time at all for several to come to mind.

One such song, that is not nearly as well known as Townend’s, is “Love Did,” by southern gospel singer/songwriter Mark Bishop. This song’s chorus ends with the line, “Nails didn’t keep Him on the cross, Love did.” This is, of course, exactly right. No nail has ever been created that could have held Jesus Christ on the cross had He decided He was unwilling to die there. Not only did He have the power to come down from that cross Himself but, as another great song about the cross says, “He could have called ten thousands angels, to destroy the world and set Him free.”

A number of years ago our church was re-doing the church directory. As part of each member’s profile, the new directory listed favorite hymns. Until I was asked to fill out the questionnaire for that directory I am not sure I had ever stopped to consider my favorite hymn. If I remember correctly, though, it did not take me long to decide on “Jesus Paid It All.” This classic hymn, written the year the Civil War ended, reminds me that the incredible debt that I owed because of my sin was paid in full by the Son of God, Jesus Christ, when He willingly died upon Calvary’s cross. As the chorus says, “Jesus paid it all/All to Him I owe.” I never could have paid that debt myself, no matter how hard I may have tried or what I may have done.

There are so many songs about the cross, and so many of them contain powerful lyrics that cause the singer (or listener) to really stop and consider that incredible sacrifice Jesus paid to purchase redemption for our sins. It is such a powerful event, that has such fantastic ramifications, that there are other songs that refer to “the wonderful cross” and “the wondrous cross.” The cross was designed as an excruciating and humiliating method of carrying out the death penalty. How could that be wonderful? Why would we sing songs about that? Because Christ’s voluntary death on the cross “paid it all.”

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