“But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, …one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith there came out blood and water.” (John 19:33-34)
As with many of the great hymns, the verses of “The Old Rugged Cross” tell a story when considered in sequence. The first verse states the general doctrine of the cross; the second speaks of the necessity of the incarnation to accomplish the cross’ purpose; the third, quoted below, gives details of the crucifixion and what it accomplished, and the last verse rehearses the results, both now and in the future.
In the old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see;
For t’was on that old cross Jesus suffered and died
To pardon and sanctify me.
That old rugged cross was stained with blood, as is obvious from our text. But this blood was special, for “ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold….But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:18-20).
The divine Lamb of God suffered and died on the cross, “in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14), “that he might sanctify the people with his own blood” (Hebrews 13:12).
But the old rugged cross was not the only thing stained that day, for “the blood of Jesus Christ…cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). The saints in heaven are portrayed as having “washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14). “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross. JDM