Beneath the Cross of Jesus

August 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Song Services

Beneath the Cross of Jesus

A.        Author Behind the Song –  Elizabeth Clephane

“This meaningful hymn was written by a frail…woman (Elizabeth Clephane)…who, despite her physical frailties, was known through her community for her helpful, cheery nature….Yet within the limits of her strength she served the poor and sick of her community, and she and her sisters gave to charity all they did not actually require for their daily needs…. (The author) was affectionately known to the townspeople as ‘the sunbeam.'”

It is obvious that Elizabeth Clephane…was an ardent Bible student for her hymn is replete with Biblical symbolism and imagery.

B.        Story within the Song

  • The title, “Beneath the Cross of Jesus” is not intended to be a historical reference to any of the devoted women, including Jesus’ mother and Mary Magdalene, plus the apostle John who sat beneath the cross.   But for historical reference, let’s remember who had the courage to be beneath the cross of Jesus.

(John 19:25 NASB)
Therefore the soldiers did these things. But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

  • No, the title refers to us standing beneath the cross of Jesus.   Placing us as if we were actually there standing with those brave enough to risk crucifixion themselves.  If we were literally there, the cross stood close enough to the ground for us to touch the feet of Jesus.
  • Who else besides the faithful were beneath the cross of Jesus?   Who would be standing beside us, but not with us?

Matthew 27:39-43 NASB   And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads  (40)   and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”   (41)  In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him and saying,  (42)  “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him.   (43)  “HE TRUSTS IN GOD; LET GOD RESCUE Him now, IF HE DELIGHTS IN HIM; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.'”

  • So before we gather beneath the cross, please understand that we will not be alone.   And yet, some of those surrounding us will despise and hate us because they despise and hate our Lord.  And also remember and focus on this further thought – standing beneath the cross is the safest and most dangerous place to be.

Verse 1

Beneath the cross of Jesus
I fain would take my stand,
the shadow of a mighty rock
within a weary land;
a home within the wilderness,
a rest upon the way,
from the burning of the noontide heat,
and the burden of the day.

Verse 1 is filled with Biblical imagery:

  • The “mighty rock” (Isaiah 32:2)
  • The “weary land” (Psalm 63:1)
  • The “home within the wilderness “(Jeremiah 9:2)
  • The “rest upon the way” (Isaiah 28:12)
  • The “burden of the day” (Matthew 11:30)
  • “Fain” – “with eagerness; gladly” (Webster’s Dictionary). As an adverb, “fain” is an archaic word that is not used much if at all anymore.    So let’s go back to the day Jesus was crucified.  Let’s go back and believe that we are glad to stand beneath the cross.   Why are we glad?
  • Verse 1 speaks of a shadow.   Jesus’ crucifixion lasted from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM.  Within these six hours, there was both sunshine and total darkness.  But let’s focus on the sunshine.   When it shone, it must have cast a shadow.  A shadow is the imagery of this first verse, and the protection that a shadow grants: The shadow of a rock in a weary land; that shadow becoming a home, and a rest from the sun’s heat and the burden of the day.   Jesus’ cross is a place of safety and protection from life’s ordeals and turmoil.  Think of the paradox that presents – the cross as a place of safety.

Verse 2

Upon that cross of Jesus
mine eye at times can see
the very dying form of One
who suffered there for me;
and from my stricken heart with tears
two wonders I confess:
the wonders of redeeming love
and my unworthiness.

  • The author takes us back visually – where we are with the mind’s eye seeing Jesus.   We are there, standing, beneath the cross, with Jesus’ mother, the devoted women, and John.  If we had runaway like the apostles, we have returned.   And we look at Jesus, we see ourselves – Jesus suffered for me.  I desire to die.  And this most horrific site imaginable brings wonder: the power of love, and the depth of my unworthiness.

Verse 3

I take, O cross, thy shadow
for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than
the sunshine of his face;
content to let the world go by,
to know no gain nor loss,
my sinful self my only shame,
my glory all the cross.

  • As we gather beneath the cross, in awe of God’s love and our unworthiness, we make a decision.   We make a choice.  We decide that there is no shame in standing beneath the cross, no matter what the world might say, or how it might appear.   We make a choice that if all we have is the cross, then nothing else matters.

~ Perry Hall

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