They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.
Lift High the Cross was composed in 1916 by Sydney H. Nicholson. The lyrics used in the hymn were written in 1887. The scriptural theme is John 12:32 where Jesus says: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
Regardless of the season, the cross calls us to continual reflection. It was a place of such gruesome punishment for Jesus. Yet it is also a place of glory–where death and sin were conquered forever. On this day we remember in the most particular and special way the victory of Christ over death. We rejoice in our newfound freedom and the promise of paradise reopened to us. What a profound impact this cross has had on our lives. The cross, once a symbol of horror, is now the gateway to salvation. In the baptismal rite, which we are celebrating today, we place the sign of the cross on heart and forehead of the one to be baptized. They then are called to take ownership of the cross and of its promise. Let us recognize its power in our lives.
This hymn has five verses. Let’s reflect a moment on a few of them.
Come, brethren follow where our Savior trod, Our King victorious, Christ, the Son of God. We are called to follow Jesus, to walk His way, to live as He lived in complete dedication to the Father’s will for us.
Led on their way by this triumphant sign, The hosts of God in conqu’ring ranks combine. We conquer in the cross. This isn’t conquering in worldly terms, but in eternal terms. The cross is the sign of hope and victory. We wear this sign of victory on our bodies and in our hearts as a result of our baptism.
O Lord, once lifted on the glorious tree, As thou hast promised, draw men unto thee. The cross is a draw for all people. There is no distinction or differentiation because we all are made part of His one body.
Thy kingdom come, that earth’s despair may cease, Beneath the shadow of its healing peace. The great promise of those who live in the cross is freedom, release, and perfect healing. All that separates us and hold us back is removed.
The hymn also carries a message of baptismal action and outreach. It calls us to “lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim” so that the whole world will hear of what Jesus has done to free us.