When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
It’s a common experience for us—going by an object, so familiar and for such a long time, that we have gotten to the point that we now cease to really see it? Or, we have probably heard the many stories of people who have had some wonderfully valuable item right under their noses for years, yet they never knew its significance or worth This is how the Cross of Jesus can be for some—overlooked or insignificant—so Isaac Watts invites us to “survey” it.
His use of the word is far more than a melodic or quaint substitute for the phrase “look at”. Survey denotes an intent look, a studying and measuring of the object. It is somewhat like the word “fix,” as it is used in Hebrews 12, “fix your eyes on Jesus.” It is that fixed, intent gaze an astronomer used when he studied the stars. Back then they did not have telescopes, so they had to be very intent on selecting that one star or planet out of the vast array of the night sky.
That is the way we need to survey the Cross, if we are to plumb the depths of the richness of its meaning to us, and so that it does not lose its significance to us through over familiarity. Otherwise it becomes a benign symbol, the meaning of which we may be able to quote, but will cease to experience. For the Cross, the instrument of death, is the beginning of our life. Jesus has commanded that we shoulder it daily, if we are to follow Him, and we must also gaze upon it frequently to maintain our awe.
Watts begins by reminding us Who died there. Think of all the references he could have made—the Lamb, the Savior, Messiah, Jesus…but he chose “Prince of Glory.” Survey that! It may have become rote to us, but we believe what is patently unbelievable—that this Prince of Glory, the eternal Son of God Himself, died on that Cross, and for us. How does that make sense? Has it become so familiar we have begun to pass it by without the honor and wonder it deserves?
It follows, then, that when Watts, surveying what Jesus gave up in heaven—His position, glory, honor, power, bliss, unfettered union, freedom from sorrow and pain—to be our Savior, he realized there was no gain on earth to compare. If Jesus gave up all heavenly glory because He considered the Cross that valuable, neither can we achieve nor possess any earthly glory to compare with that of the Cross. If Jesus would humble Himself to come as a servant, even to the point of the Creator submitting to the cruel and unjust dishonor from His own creation, what pride we possess, which holds us back from the cross to which He calls us, is beyond contempt.
As we survey the Cross, we find the things we chase after to be vain things. We find the honor we seek among other mortal creatures to be a vain thing. We could despair with Solomon that all is vanity and is chasing after the wind, except as these turn to dust in our estimation, we turn, as well, and once more survey the Cross and find in it all there is of value. For in the Cross we see the sacrificial love of the One who is not merely our Savior, but our Friend.
See, from His head, His hands, His feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down. That is the blessed vision we obtain when we survey the Cross. Study it until you have a fresh vision of its mercy, its love, its power, its humility, its justice, its surrender, its glory…it truly is wondrous.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries