‘The wondrous cross’

We are on the threshold of Holy Week. It begins with the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday. At the end is the Easter dawn. In between falls the giant shadow of the cross. The gospel writers, realizing that something tremendous happened there, tell about it in four words: “There they crucified him.”

Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf, founder of the Moravian Church, was quite religious as a youth. He not only attended worship regularly; he also lived the faith he professed. But when his parents died, he wandered away and all the things he once had loved and admired were lost.

He was left in the care of an old coachman who had worked for his family for many years. The prodigality of his ward broke the heart of his guardian. One day as the two were driving into the city of Dresden, the old man told him that he would like to take him to see a painting in the art gallery. The young man really wasn’t interested but agreed to go just to humor the one who had done so much for him.

When they arrived in Dresden they went directly to the art gallery. Walking along the corridors they came at last to a large painting at the end of the hall, which covered the entire wall.

As his eyes grew accustomed to the semi-dark lighting, the young count realized that it was a painting of the crucifixion. Jesus was hanging on the cross, huge nails driven into his hands and feet, a crown of thorns pressed down on his brow and blood from the wounds trickling down his face.

For a long time the young man stood beholding. His eyes followed every line out to the end of the canvass. He was deeply touched by the look of love and compassion in the eyes of the Master. Finally, his eyes moved to the legend written at the bottom. It read: “I gave my life for thee. What hast thou done for me?” It broke his heart and brought him back to the faith.

The shadow of the cross falls upon all of our lives. It is the constant reminder that God gave his only Son to die for us, impelling us to give ourselves anew to his service. When I survey the wondrous cross On which the Prince of glory died,

My richest gain I count but loss,

And pour contempt on all my pride.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were a present far too small:

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Rev. Nichols is Minister Emeritus of First Christian Church, Temple, where he was senior minister for 23 years. He writes a religious column for several newspapers.

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2013-03-21 digital edition

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