In these few days, this hymns has been in my mind, so i decided to do some research over it.

This hymn was written by George Bennard (1873-1958) and the hymn has been sing by many famous people. hmm I did not notice that Elvis Presley sang that before also. From the comments in youtube, I think it is a very common funeral hymn in the US.

As I thought about the cross and death by Crucifixion, I am not sure how many of us knew that Crucifixion is one of the worst punishment that can be meted out by the Roman Governors. It is usually done to the worst of all criminals in ancient Rome and is often use in Judea as a punishment to rebels and messiah wannabes who wanted to lead the people to rebel against Rome.

The criminals are often crucified at hills so that they can be seen from afar, this serves as an deterrence to all rebels and messiah wannabes in the time of Jesus.

When one is crucified on the cross, his blood will be left to drip, while he needs to use his legs to constantly pull himself up in order to breath. It is a very painful way to die, and the Romans would often give the victim a mixture of sour wine mingled with gall (Matt 27:34), it will serve as a anaesthetic to make the death less painful. They often view this act as the last humane thing they could do for the victim.

Usually, the victim is left to die on the cross, but if there is a need for them to die quickly, the soldiers may break the legs of the victim (Jn 19:31). The purpose of this is to make sure the victim will not have the strength to pull himself up to breath and thus die by suffocation.

In the case of Jesus, because he looks dead, so the centurion decided to pierce his body. Most combat medics will tell you, if a person is dead for some time, the red and the white blood cells would be separated hence “blood and the water came out” (Jn 19:34). That is used to confirm the death of the victim.

This is the mechanics of Christ punishment.

It is through such a gruesome punishment that God opened the true and living way to salvation. Sometimes i wonder why did God choose such a painful way to pay for our sins. Perhaps i guess the real answer will only be known when we get to heaven to ask him. Right now i have the tendency to believe that only by such death can all his blood be poured out. The new covenant that God made with man is based on the blood of Jesus (Heb 10:1-18).

Yet, often or not, we preach the message of the sacrifice of Jesus and the way to be reconciled with God to the world, we are often viewed as fools.

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” – Paul (1 Cor 1:18)

Sometimes i wonder how many of us still hold on to that conviction that Christ has paid for all our sins using that old rugged cross. How many of us really treasure our relationship with God, and have we often traded our old rugged cross with something else?

During the time of the apostles, the term “Christian” is actually an insult, and a derogatory term for the believers of Jesus. Being a Christian then often means that one will have to flee for their lives, hiding in the catacombs and the outskirt of the city. Being burnt on the stake and being thrown into the lions den for the entertainment of the Romans.

One of the most interesting account that left a deep impression in me is found in one of the records of the early church fathers, about Polycarp, a bishop in Smyrna during the second century AD. He was burnt on the stake in the stadium during the reign of Marcus Aurelius. he was 86 years old when he died. (Some claimed that he is older, and he was only converted to Christianity for 86 years before he died). He tried his best to run away but was eventually captured by the Romans

This conversation is based on a early Christian writings known as “The Epistle and Martyrdom of St Polycarp” (I have rephrased some of the old English to help readers to understand what Polycarp said)

When he was brought into the stadium, there was an uproar in the stadium he was being trialed by the Proconsul (thats a high ranking Roman official) who did not really want to kill the old man.

Proconsul: “Have respect to your old age,
                        Swear by the fortune of Caesar;
                        repent, and say, Away with the
                       Atheists.”

Polycarp:  “Away with the Atheists.”
                      (Refusing to swear by Caesar)

Proconsul: “Swear, and I will set you free,
                         reproach Christ;”

Polycarp: “Eighty and six years have I served
                       Him, and He never did me any wrong:
                       how then can I blaspheme my King
                       and my Saviour?”

Proconsul : “Swear by the fortune of Caesar,”
                         (Trying to urge him again)

Polycarp:  “Since you urged me saying that, I
                       should swear by the fortune of Caesar,
                       and pretended not to know who and
                       what I am,  therefore hear my bold
                       declaration,

                       I am a Christian. And if you wish to
                       learn what the doctrines of Christianity
                       make an appointment with me , and
                      you shall hear them.”

Proconsul: “Persuade the people, ”

Polycarp: ” I have offered to share my faith with you,
                       for we are taught to give all due honour to
                       the powers and authorities which are
                       ordained of God. But as for these people,
                       I deem them unworthy to receiving any
                       testimony from me.”

Proconsul: “I have wild beasts at hand; I will cast you
                         into their den unless you repent”

Polycarp: “Call them then, for we are not accustomed
                       to repent from what is good in order to adopt
                       that which is evil; but it is well for me to be
                       changed from what is evil to what is righteous.”

Proconsul: “Since you despise my punishment, I will
                        sentence you to be burnt by fire, unless
                        you repent”

Polycarp:  “You threatened me with fire which burns
                       for an hour, which will get extinguished in
                       a little while, but you are ignorant of the fire
                       of the coming judgement and of eternal
                       punishment, reserved for the ungodly. So whats
                       holding you back? Bring forth what you said.”

According to the epistle, he was burnt on the stake but the fire did not hurt him, and in the end they knife him to death. As it is the writings of the church fathers and not part of the Christian Bible, I will not attempt to prove if the epistle is true or not.

Personally as I read the story of Polycarp, I am very moved by his conviction, especially how he made the stand before the proconsul. Indeed he cling on to that old rugged cross even in the face of death. I remember Jesus once said

” Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” – Jesus (Matt 10:32-33)

I really wonder if I am trailed in the same way, will I ever have the courage to do the same.

Let us learn to cherish the old rugged cross just like the Christians before us.

Hmm I did not notice i spoke so much..I intially wanted to just write a simple message before the tune. But nonetheless.. lets sing it together

Title: The Old Rugged Cross
Lyrics and Tune : George Bennard

(Stanza 1)
On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross
where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

(Chorus)

(Stanza 2)
Oh, that old rugged cross so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God
left His glory above,
To bear it to dark Calvary.

(Chorus)

(Stanza 3)
In the old rugged cross,
stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see;
For ’twas on that old cross
Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.

(Chorus)

(Stanza 4)
To the old rugged cross I will ever be true,
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day
to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.

(Chorus)
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

I only found 2 stanzas on youtube.. if you have the full tune please let me know

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