â€œAnd he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha.â€ (John 19:17)
The Hebrew wordÂ golgothaÂ and the Latin wordÂ calvarieÂ actually mean â€œskull.â€ The Romans had selected a place of execution outside Jerusalem (Hebrews 13:12) but near the city (John 19:20), near a public highway (Matthew 27:39), and easily visible from some distance away (Mark 15:40). This has led many to speculate that it was on a hill, as in the first verse of the well-loved hymn â€œThe Old Rugged Cross.â€
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.
Truly His cross involved great suffering: â€œChrist also suffered for us. . . . Who his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healedâ€ (1 Peter 2:21, 24). Likewise, it involved great shame: â€œChrist hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a treeâ€ (Galatians 3:13). But this suffering and shame was not in vain, for as we see in both passages above, it was on our behalf. â€œGreater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friendsâ€ (John 15:13).
However, Godâ€™s dearest and best, indeed Godâ€™s â€œonly begotten Sonâ€ (John 3:16), was slain, not so much for â€œfriends,â€ but for enemies! A world of lost sinners put Him on the cross. â€œBut God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us . . . when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Sonâ€ (Romans 5:8, 10). So Iâ€™ll cherish the old rugged cross. JDM
Click hereÂ for the sheet music for this hymn.Â