On A Hill Far Away

by Tom Wacaster

What is it about the cross of Christ that draws men to Jesus?  Surely it is not the fact that it was some instrument of death, for other means of execution remain to this day as symbols of only infamy and disgrace.  Who has ever written a song about the electric chair, or what poet has ever glorified the gas chamber or the hangman's noose?  But let men erect a cross in their yard, or display it upon a billboard, and immediately the attention of those who see that cross is drawn to one figure in history Who made that cruel instrument famous.  Let someone display an electric chair in the front of their yard and the onlooker might wonder why such a display.  But his attention would not be drawn to any particular figure in history.  But let a man put a cross in his yard and immediately those who pass by think of Christ and Christianity.  Even as I write these lines the ACLU is seeking to remove a war memorial in the state of California for no other reason than the fact that it is in the shape of a cross.  From the fields of Arlington Memorial Cemetery in Washington, D.C., to the beaches of Normandy, and around the world, grave yards have been graced with small crosses at the head of each tomb declaring the hope that men have in a resurrection - a resurrection found only in Christ, and made possible because of His death upon the cross.  Oh yes, "On a hill far away, Stood and old rugged cross, The emblem of suffering and shame..."  For 2,000 years the cross of Christ has cast its beacon of hope across the tumultuous seas of human misery and sin, and the message of the gospel is so closely associated with that cross that to speak of the one is to bring to mind the other.  It has been nine centuries since Abbot Rupert wrote the following tribute to the cross of Christ:

"We venerate the cross as a safeguard of faith, as the strengthening of hope and the throne of love. It is the sign of mercy, the proof of forgiveness, the vehicle of grace and the banner of peace. We venerate the cross, because it has broken down our pride, shattered our envy, redeemed our sin and atoned for our punishment.  The cross of Christ is the door to heaven, the key to paradise, the downfall of the devil, the uplifting of mankind, the consolation of our imprisonment, the  prize for our freedom. The cross was the hope of the patriarchs, the promise of the prophets, the triumph of kings and the ministry of priests. Tyrants are convicted by the cross and the mighty ones defeated, it lifts up the miserable and honors the poor. The cross is the end of darkness, the spreading of light, the flight of death, the ship of life and the kingdom of salvation" (http://www.rc.net/wcc/throne1.htm)

Dear friend, that cross, and all that it stands for demands some kind of response.  Men can ignore it, ridicule it, mock it, and seek to eliminate its presence, but in so doing they stumble over the One Who Himself said, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself" (John 12:32).  It has been more than twenty years since Lois Cheney wrote the following lines:

I once saw a cross so big
It was as high as the church
In front of which it stood.
It was made of railroad steel
And it was very dramatic,
And I was moved
And I was impressed
As I walked by and away from it.

I once saw a cross so lovely,
It was a work of art,
Carved and polished
It was made to look
Both strong and delicate,
And I was moved
And I was impressed
As I walked by and away from it.

There once was a cross
Not so high; not so lovely
It was not a work of art.
Rough, full of splinters
Uneven, unsymmetrical
Its simple  mystery
And I cannot walk by it
And I cannot walk away from it.