Jesus, keep me near the cross,
There a precious fountain—
Free to all, a healing stream—
Flows from Calv’ry’s mountain.
In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever;
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.
Near the cross, a trembling soul,
Love and Mercy found me;
There the bright and morning star
Sheds its beams around me.
Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day,
With its shadows o’er me.
Near the cross I’ll watch and wait
Hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand,
Just beyond the river.
The story of Funny Crosby, the writer of this hymn, we have already looked at and will not be the center of our discussion today. But for reference please follow this link: https://austinbhebe.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/jesus-keep-me-near-the-cross/
I love to talk and preach on the theme of the cross of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the axis of salvation, the climax of the cosmic conflict between good and evil. So Fanny Crosby’s ‘Near the Cross’ is a favorite hymn of mine. In this hymn Funny Crosby takes us back to the cross.
When we sing Calvary, Calvary be my glory ever, it is not Calvary that we glory in. But it is what happened at Calvary that we glory in. Christ the son of God died a substitutionary death at Calvary. In His death eternal death was dead forever. Now I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene and wonder how He could love me a sinner condemned unclean. How marvelous, how wonder and my song shall ever be. In the Gospels we read that our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified for our sins at a place called “Golgotha.” “And when they reached a place called Golgotha, which is the place of skull.” (Matthew 27:33), there they crucified him.
So Golgotha is the “place of the skull.” But if you’ve ever studied Hebrew, you may have realized a difficulty with the claimed translations here. Golgotha doesn’t mean anything close to “skull” in Hebrew, Aramaic, or any other language. That is a big problem. It is a puzzle that must be solved and when it is solved we will be amazed. In my studies of this place I came up with the following facts which we now lay out.
Let’s lay out the facts:
- Golgotha, a seemingly unintelligible word, has something to do with a “skull.”
- Golgotha is located outside the city walls of Jerusalem.
- Golgotha was a widely known Jewish location with a proper name. Presumably the location symbolized something.
Here’s a possible solution that you may not have expected:
The “place of the skull” is where King David buried the head of the decapitated giant Goliath of Gath. The Bible teaches that after David slew Goliath, he cut off his head and brought it – the skull – to Jerusalem:
“He ran, and stood over the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath, and slew him, and cut off his head. And the Philistines seeing that their champion was dead, fled away. And the children of Israel returning, after they had pursued the Philistines, fell upon their camp. And David taking the head of the Philistine brought it to Jerusalem: but his armor he put in his tent.” (1 Samuel 17:51–54,)
This would explain why the “place of the skull” is oddly named “Golgotha.” The term is a corruption of Hebrew for “Goliath Gath”:
Goliath Gath > GoliGath > GolGath > GolGatha
So King David killed the enemy of Israel (Goliath of Gath) and then brought the giant’s head to Jerusalem. Jews would not have permitted the Gentile giant’s head to be buried in the city walls. It would have been buried outside the city walls. This matches with what we know about the location of Golgatha. It was outside the city walls.
The slaying of Goliath by David was one of the most important events in “Israelite history.” The location of the giant’s head would have been known by all. Hence, “Golgatha” is likely the place of not just any old skull, but the place of the skull of Goliath of Gath.
This is a beautiful connection since Christ is the Messianic Son of David. Our Lord Jesus Christ is constantly reaffirming that He Himself is the definitive “Son of David”:
“And the chief priests and scribes, seeing the wonderful things that he did and the children crying in the temple and saying: Hosanna to the son of David, were moved with indignation,” (Matthew 21:15)
“And Jesus answering, said, teaching in the temple: How do the scribes say that Christ is the son of David?” (Mark 12:35)
Our Lord Jesus Christ crushed the head of Satan while he was on the cross (see Gen 3:15).
Just as the shepherd David crushed the head of Goliath of Gath with a little stone, so Jesus Christ crushed the head of Satan. The foundation of God’s Kingdom on earth (the Universal Catholic Church) was embedded into the forehead of the Roman Empire while Jesus hung on a Roman cross. The “little rock” that Christ threw was his appointed apostle and vicar – a man whom he named “little rock” or “Peter.” Peter was embedded into Rome by also being crucified on a Roman cross, albeit upside down. And there Peter was buried: “On this rock I will build my Church.”
Jesus’ crucifixion was a battle that ultimately delivered all humankind from the power of Satan – from sin and from death. And we, who are in Christ, share in this victory.
Jesus went to his death on Golgotha knowing that it was the path to his glorification as well as our salvation. In his last public discourse, he had indicated how – and why – he would soon die, saying, “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say – ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name. . . . And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:27-28, 32-33). And on the very eve of his crucifixion, Jesus prayed,
Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. (John 17:1-5).
The Fathers of the Church even refer to the cross as Jesus’ “throne of glory.” The crucifixion led ultimately to Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven, where he is gloriously enthroned at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 1:3).
I hope this brings everything together for you. Now I am aware there are many thoughts about this place called the skull, its appearance of a skull, the thought that Adam’s skull was buried there and so forth, but I thought I would share something that touched me in my research.