When I Survey The Wondrous Cross

Bible Book: John  19
Subject: Cross of Christ; Crucifixion; Easter; Death of Jesus

John 19:16-18, 25-30

Isaac Watts wrote the hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross. This morning, we want to survey the cross on which Jesus died. Easter is a time when we are reminded of the wondrous cross of Christ. The cross is about Jesus’ death which is essential to the gospel. Salvation of sinners required a perfect sacrifice. Only Jesus qualifies to be the Savior of sinners.

I. View of The Cross

A. Cruelty of The Cross.

The view of the cross was gruesome and horrifying. The sight would have been awful and sickening to the stomach. The world offers a beautiful picture of rabbits and eggs as a distraction from the true meaning of the cross. It is the world's way of avoiding the ugliness of sin and the terrible treatment of the Son of God.

The suffering of Jesus began at His appearance before Caiaphas, the high priest. He was falsely accused of blasphemy. They spate in His face and smote Him with their hands. (Matthew 26:65, 67) He was brought before Pilate who had Him scourged before he delivered Him to be crucified. Scourging was more than a severe beating.  Jesus was beaten with a whip of leather throngs with either lead balls or nails and glass, most did not survive the whipping.

Jesus was so cruelly and viciously beaten that He hardly looked like a man. Isaiah wrote “many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men.” (Isaiah 52:14 KJV)

The prophetic words of Isaiah rang true. “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.” (Isaiah 50:6 KJV) Jesus didn’t look human.

Those at the cross were shocked and many were astonished when they saw Jesus. The people who stood at the foot of the cross of Christ witnessed the most cruel and painful form of torture known by man. This practice was the Romans means of punishing people for their crimes.  They were known for killing tens of thousands by crucifixion.

Jesus' suffering was with a purpose but not for crimes that He had committed. “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5-6 KJV) Jesus was suffering in our place as our substitute.

In the Roman Empire, the crucified person would be left hanging on the cross for several hours of torture. Psalms 22 gives us a description of the crucifixion.

“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me." (Psalm 22:14-17 KJV)

B. Curse of The Cross.

Paul wrote, “Christ 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 tree.” (Galatians 3:13 KJV) In the Old Testament, those who were hanged on a tree were cursed. In the New Testament the word “tree” is used three times in the book of Acts as a reference to the cross. (Acts. 5:30, 10:39, 13:29)

The law of God is holy and just and good. (Romans 7:12) Man’s problem is that he cannot keep the law, “For all have sinned.” (Romans 3:23) We all share the same punishment “For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) Paul said, “I had not known sin but by the law.” (Romans 7:7) “By the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20)

Someone has written, “The punishment of being hanged on a tree, and left to open exposure, was thought to be so severe that it was reserved only for those for which it was to be declared: ‘this one is cursed by God.’  So Jesus not only died in our place; but He took the place as the cursed of God, being hung on a tree in open shame and degradation.”

According to Isaiah 53:4, Jesus was “stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” Why was Jesus smitten by God? Because He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities.

Jesus was not nailed to the tree for any crime He had committed. Jesus was sinless. He was “made a curse for us” meaning all our sins were placed on Jesus. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 KJV) Jesus took the curse of sin upon Himself to redeem us from our sin. Jesus redeemed or purchased us by the giving of Himself on the cross.

II. Victor on The Cross

A. A Wondrous Sovereign

Jesus was no victim on the cross. Jesus is the King of the universe, the Creator of all things. (Colossians 1:16-19) A leaf does not shake in the wind and neither a rain drop falls to the ground without His permission. He knows the stars in the heavens by name and the number of hairs on your head. He is the Sovereign Lord. Jesus is the eternal Son of God. Jesus said “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30) declaring His deity and His equality with the Father. Jesus is enthroned in the heavens as the Sovereign Lord.

Still, this glorious King who lived in the splendor and glory of heaven took upon Himself human flesh. He took upon Himself “the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:7)

Paul stated in 1 Timothy 3:16, “great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh.” Jesus was and is God in a human body.

Who would ever think that a king would die for His people? Greater still is the thought of a king who would die for his enemies. We were His enemies, but He died for us.

B. A Willing Sacrifice

Jesus willingly went to the cross. It was not Pilate or the Roman soldiers who forced Jesus to go to the cross against His will. Jesus said to Pilate, “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above.” (John 19:11 KJV)

Jesus said, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” (John 10:17-18 KJV)

When Jesus was being nailed to the cross, it was not man in control but the Wondrous Sovereign Lord fulfilling His plan of redemption for sinners.

“And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:8 KJV)

Jesus “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

C. A Wonderful Savior

The writer of Hebrews declared, “when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Hebrews 1:3 KJV) The Lord Jesus being seated upon His throne in heaven assures us of a finished redemption.

Fannie Cosby wrote the beautiful hymn He Hideth My Soul. This beloved hymn reminds me of the wonderful Savior I have in Jesus. The last stanza states:

When clothed in His brightness, transported I rise
To meet Him in clouds of the sky,
His perfect salvation, His wonderful love,
I'll shout with the millions on high.

III. Victory at The Cross

A. Christ’s Victory

Jesus’ death and resurrection defeated death, Satan and sin. He is the undeniable Creator and King of all things. All the powers of darkness came against Christ while He was nailed to the cross. The religious leaders and the Roman government with the power of the devil and his demons conspired together to destroy the Son of God on the cross. These enemies of Christ stripped Him naked and publicly humiliated Him by nailing Him on the cross. However, the Bible says it was impossible to keep Jesus on the cross. (Acts 2:23-24)

 Paul wrote that Jesus “spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” (Colossians 2:15) For that reason the Father “hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:9-11)

B. Christian Victory

Let us be reminded what Paul said. “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” (Rom. 5:10)

As Christians, we share in the victory of Christ. The resurrected power of Christ is in us. We can say with Paul, “we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” (Rom. 8:37) The devil, demons nor any other creature “can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” (Rom. 8:39)


As we survey the cross on which Christ died, we are reminded of the gravity of our sin and the grace of our Savior. The last stanza of the hymn When I Survey the Wondrous Cross ends with: 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. What is your response to Christ as you survey the cross?

By all accounts Jesus didn't do a lot of talking on the cross. It was as if he were alone in his pain -- silent for the many hours he hung there, except for a very few words. But these 7 Last Words of Christ from the Cross provide a window into Jesus' soul, a way to understand through his own last words what is ultimately important to this One who is dying on the cross.

Prepare Your Heart for Holy Week and Good Friday

These seven words are taken from different gospels, but assembled into what was probably their chronological order according to a simple harmony of the various gospel accounts of the crucifixion:

"Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34)

"This day you will be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43)

"Woman, behold your son." (John 19:26-27)

"My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34; Matthew 27:46)

"I thirst." (John 19:28)

"It is finished." (John 19:30)

"Into your hands I commit my spirit." (Luke 23:46)

A superficial reading of the gospel narratives concerning the death of Jesus will show that He was nailed to the cross at 9 o'clock in the morning and was dead by 3 in the afternoon. His terrible ordeal, it would seem, was over in a mere six hours.

Two aspects of the death of Christ show something of the mystery of His death and the suffering He took onto Himself for our sake. The death of Jesus on the cross took but six hours as measured in dynamical time. Jesus was, for the first three hours on the cross, our Great High Priest. From noon till 3 P.M., during which time a strange and terrible darkness came over the earth, the High Priest became the Sacrifice.