Posted by: rcottrill | May 23, 2018

Beneath the Cross of Jesus

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Words: Elizabeth Cecelia Douglas Clephane (b. June 18, 1830; d. Feb. 19, 1869)
Music: St Christopher, by Frederick Charles Maker (b. Aug. 6, 1844; d. Jan. 1, 1927)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Scottish author Elizabeth Clephane wrote this lovely hymn about taking her own stand at the cross–an expression of her faith in the Saviour. Her father was the local sheriff of a town near Edinburgh. And her song, Beneath the Cross of Jesus, was written in 1868 and published posthumously four years later. She also gave us the song The Ninety and Nine.

Taking a stand is an expression we see in the news sometimes. He took a stand on voter rights; she takes a stand on equal pay for equal work. It means to have convictions, to take a firm position on what you believe, and hold your ground.

President Abraham Lincoln said, “Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.” And he said in a speech, “I ask you to stand by me so long as I stand by it [referring to the American flag].” Auto maker Lee Iacocca said, “To succeed today you have to set priorities, decide what you stand for.” And there’s this challenging exhortation from author H. G. Wells: “If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.”

The Bible uses the expression to indicate how we should respond to the challenges of life.

¤ We are to “watch [be on guard], stand fast [or firm] in the faith [the teachings of God’s Word], be brave, be strong” (I Cor. 16:13).

¤ And we should “put on the whole armour of God, that [we] may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11).

¤ And “stand fast [firm] in the Lord [i.e. with His help]” (Phil. 4:1).

One of the most difficult times to do that was surely when Christ was seized, falsely accused and crucified. His followers had seen His wonderful power. Why couldn’t He do something to stop His enemies? We read that “all the disciples forsook Him and fled” (Matt. 26:56). They went into hiding–though, to his credit, John later came back and appeared at the cross with Jesus’ mother (Jn. 19:26-27).

But there were at least four followers who apparently remained near the cross (Jn. 19:25). Remarkably, they were all women, and three of them were named Mary. There was Jesus’ mother Mary, with her unnamed sister, Mary the wife of Clopas (also called Cleopas), and Mary Magdalene.

Afterward, Mary from Magdala had a remarkable meeting with the resurrected Christ (Jn. 20:11-18). Cleopas was journeying back to his home in the town of Emmaus with an unnamed companion when they both met and conversed with the risen Saviour (Lk. 24:13-32). It’s not impossible that the other person with Cleopas was his wife Mary. As for the mother of Jesus, the Lord commended her to the care of John, and we see them both, later, in the upper room, waiting for the new ministry of the Holy Spirit to begin (Acts 1:8, 13-14).

All three of these women showed great courage, even in their time of grief. They took a stand near the cross and testified to their loyalty to Christ, and their deep love for Him. They were later rewarded with a fuller understanding of what had happened.

As to the hymn, the author’s description of the cross as a “place where heaven’s love and heaven’s justice meet” is wonderful. That is the gospel: that God sent His Son, in love, to pay sin’s penalty for us, in order to satisfy His holy justice. Now through faith in Christ, we can be forgiven and saved eternally. And Clephane adds to this, in another stanza, “two wonders”: God’s redeeming love and our unworthiness of it.

Note: the word “fain” means gladly, willingly. A “trysting place” is an appointed meeting place. And the “holy patriarch” is Jacob. Clephane is referring to his dream out in the wilderness (Gen. 28:10-12). Here are three of the five stanzas found on the Cyber Hymnal. Early publications of the hymn ended stanza four with “my own worthlessness.” The word “unworthiness” is infinitely better.

CH-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.

CH-2) O safe and happy shelter,
O refuge tried and sweet,
O trysting place where heaven’s love
And heaven’s justice meet!
As to the holy patriarch
That wondrous dream was giv’n
So seems my Saviour’s cross to me,
A ladder up to heav’n.

CH-4) 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.

Questions:
1) Why is it wrong to describe ourselves as “worthless” (the original word used)? (What shows us we are not worthless to God?)

2) What does it mean to say we should live the Christian life in the shadow of the cross?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org


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