“THE SHADOW OF THE CROSS”
“Looking unto Jesus…; who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame…” (Heb. 12:2)
INTRO.: A hymn which encourages us to look unto Jesus who for the joy that was before Him endured the cross is “The Shadow of the Cross.” The text was written by Gipsy (or Gypsy) Simon Smith. I have not been able to find much information about this individual, who was a noted revival evangelist in the early 1900s, working in both Canada and the United States. He was a cousin to the famous British evangelist Rodney “Gypsy” Smith (1860-1947). One source said, “The spelling ‘Gipsy’ is sometimes used for each of the Smiths.” Rodney made many trips across the Atlantic to preach as well. Both were apparently hymn writers. Hymnary.org lists ten hymns by Gipsy Simon Smith. However, one of those is “Jesus, Revealed in Me” beginning “Christ, the Transforming Light” with music by E. Edwin Young, which other sources attribute to Rodney “Gypsy” Smith. In fact, one website said that Rodney “would sing as well as he preached. Sometimes he would interrupt his sermon and burst into song. Thousands wept as he sang such songs as ‘Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah’ with tears running down his cheeks, or such as ‘This Wonderful Saviour of Mine’ and ‘Jesus Revealed in Me,’ a song that he wrote: ‘Christ the Transforming Light, Touches this heart of mine, Piercing the darkest night, Making His glory shine. Chorus: Oh, to reflect His grace, Causing the world to see, Love that will glow Till others shall know Jesus revealed in me.’” So, there seems to be some confusion among sources as to the two “Gypsy” Smiths. The tune for “The Shadow of the Cross,” which is listed as copyright 1931 by the Gospel Advocate Co., was composed by George Coles Stebbins (1846-1945). The song was used in the small 1935 book Songs We Love edited by Lloyd O. Sanderson. Among other hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, it also appeared in the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1) also edited by Sanderson.
The song emphasizes the suffering that Jesus endured for us at Gethsemane and on Calvary.
I. Stanza 1 mentions the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane
“The evening hour, A garden bower,
A kneeling there, A form in prayer;
A bitter cry, While sleepers nigh,
See not the shadow of the cross, See not the shadow of the cross.
A. After eating the Passover with His disciples, Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane: Matt. 26:36
B. While He was there, He prayed: Matt. 26:39
C. He asked three of His disciples to watch with Him, but they fell asleep: Matt. 26:40-41
II. Stanza 2 emphasizes the agony that Jesus felt in Gethsemane
“Gethsemane, And agony,
And drops of blood, The Son of God!
He drained the vial ‘Mid morning trial;
He saw the shadow of the cross, He saw the shadow of the cross.”
A. The scriptures tell us that Gethsemane was located on the Mount of Olives: Lk. 22:39
B. The agony that He felt there was so great that His sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground: Lk. 22:44 (nowhere does the Bible say that He sweat “drops of blood” in the garden; to conform to scriptural teaching, the song should say “And drops as blood, The Son of God!”)
C. Following this, Jesus was led away to His morning trial: Lk. 23:47-54, 63-71
III. Stanza 3 emphasizes the crucifixion of Jesus on Calvary
“Up Calvary’s steep, With weary feet,
The noisy throng Urged Him along;
That sinless One To death was done—
He bore the anguish of the cross, He bore the anguish of the cross.”
A. The ultimate result of Jesus’s trial was His condemnation to be crucified, so He was taken to a hill called Golgotha in Hebrew, but Calvary in Latin: Lk. 23:33
B. The noisy throng mocked Him: Lk. 23:35-37
C. Yet, the sinless one willing suffered death for us: Lk. 23:39-47
IV. Stanza 4 emphasizes the death that Jesus died on Calvary
“A darkened sky, A piercing cry!
The price is paid, Atonement made;
He lives again, ‘Twas not in vain,
The sacrifice upon the cross, The sacrifice upon the cross.”
A. At the time of Jesus’s death, the sky was darkened: Matt. 26:45
B. There was a piercing cry as Jesus passed from this life: Matt. 26:46-50
C. Yet, three days later, He arose from the dead so that He lived again to prove that His sacrifice was not in vain: Matt. 28:1-8
CONCL.: This is one of those songs that at one time people may have used occasionally but having become but a mere footnote in hymnology history is likely now all but forgotten since it has not been included in any recent hymnbooks that I know of. I had trouble finding any solid information about it or its author. However, it does well to remind us that Jesus lived His entire earthly life with a view to His coming death, and because of its importance to us, we need to remember “The Shadow of the Cross.”