Calvary is no bedtime story.
I sat down to a piano the other day, cracked my knuckles (bad habit, I know) and grabbed a hymnal. I opened the hymnal to one of my favorite hymns, “Jesus, Paid it All.”
I grew up singing this song in church and it was always a triumphant, joyful song. “Jesus Paid it All! All to Him I owe! Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.” It was always upbeat and soaring, like there should be a “woohoo!” in there. But, as I set my fingers on the keys, the ‘woohoo’ escaped me.
The song had been stuck in my head for days. When I was alone in my car I would turn off the radio and sing it at the top of my lungs over and over again. As I studied the key, notes, and words there on the page in front of me, I was moved in a way that I have never really experienced before.
I’ve played piano with my right hand all my life, and just recently decided to let my left hand do its own thing. I’ve never obeyed timing, a fact that highly annoys any musician friends of mine. I have always let the music itself do the talking, not the person who wrote it.
As my fingers settled on the starting keys, in my heart, the tempo slowed. The lyrics cut deeper than the melody had ever let them cut before. The song poured out in an eerie combination of lullaby and reverent worship– it was slow, reflective, and powerful.
“I hear the Savior say, thy strength indeed is small. Child of weakness, watch and pray. Find in me, your all in all. Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow. Lord, nothing good have I, whereby thy grace to claim. Oh, I’ll wash my garments white in the blood of Calvary’s Lamb. Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow. Lord, now, indeed I find, thy power and thine alone, can change the leper’s spots, can melt a heart of stone. Jesus paid it all! All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow…”
We are guilty. We are guilty of belittling the power of the cross. The reality behind that hymn is no nursery rhyme. It is not worthy of the lighthearted a tempo joy we slap on it.
Easter is not worthy of the lighthearted, dyed egg approach we so often take. We get so wrapped up in candy, cantatas and ham dinners that we forget the whole point.
Is there joy? Oh yes, absolutely. Jesus rose! So, by all means, sing “He Lives” with all the pomp and circumstance it deserves, but don’t forget that the resurrection was only powerful because He was once dead. Get the whole story.
Get a grip on Calvary.
This is not some whoopdiedoop truth. Our freedom cost us nothing, but it cost Him everything. The guilt, shame, and loneliness we knew in our sin was magnified to exponential proportions with Him. This is not some casual grace that we get to celebrate. It was bought with Calvary. That’s a big deal, and we need to treat it like such.
Our worship must be a balance of joy and reverent awe. Maybe this is the problem so many of us have. We treat grace so casually that it becomes dispensable and disposable.
You fell again? Oh, that’s OK! Jesus paid it all!
You aren’t sure if you can get free? No worries, Jesus paid it all! Like some multi-millionaire paying off your mortgage, He just paid it all.
Did He? Yes, but at what price? What price did our freedom cost Him?
If we kept a whole view of the price He paid, it would move us more. If we actually took time to sit back and think about the praises we so often sing and the price paid so that we could sing them, they would have more meaning. If we kept our eyes fixed on Calvary while living in the power of the Resurrection, I doubt that resurrection would lose its power.
As you celebrate our freedom from sin, don’t forget the reality of the cross. This grace is not a casual grace. He paid it all and it cost Him all He had.
And when, before the throne, I stand in Him complete. Jesus died, my soul to save, oh my lips shall still repeat. Jesus paid it all! All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.