As a child, my most favorite hymn and actually the most popular Christian hymn for close to 100 years was “The Old Rugged Cross” written in 1912. George Bennard who was a Methodist Episcopal evangelist was ridiculed at one of his meetings. When Bennard preached, he loved to talk about John 3:16, “For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believed in him, should not perish but have eternal life,” and often would have a vision of the cross. But he struggled to tie down words forming in his mind for a hymn. After being ridiculed, he went home and was able to write this favorite hymn.
Our Lenten verses for today come from Mark 15:22-23. Jesus is being nailed to the cross. He is offered wine to ease the pain but he refuses. He accepts the cross experiencing the full pain, and as we now know and will hear again tomorrow in service, it is in this humiliating experience that God is glorified. The mocking of Bennard gave him voice for a hymn that has touched and formed many lives, even mine. It seems an appropriate hymn to focus on today as we continue to ponder the depths of God’s love for us.