The Dream of the Rood is a poem about Jesus’s death, written from the perspective of the cross (also known as ‘the Rood’). At the beginning, the Rood says who Jesus is. This explanation of Jesus’s character should strike awe into the reader, and humble them, in remembrance of the character of our Lord.
The Rood speaks of a man who “intended to redeem mankind,” but it doesn’t just say that He is a man. It says that He is “Lord of all mankind,” “the noble King,” “Lord of heaven above,” “God of hosts,” “Ruler,” “Prince,” “Almighty God,” “Lord of victories,” “Christ,” “the Great Prince,” “the Son of God,” and “the King of Glory.”
When the poem goes on to say that The Rood was the cross on which this man died, the reader may think that the Rood would be extremely humbled at this fact. But, most likely to the reader’s amazement, the Rood exalts itself with that knowledge. It seems that the Rood only sees itself as equal to Jesus. To all readers, this should seem far more than foolish, especially because the Rood is merely wood. But the reality is that you and I may be almost as clueless as the Rood.
We, the Redeemed, can be like the Rood, and get too focused on ourselves, and on God’s love for us. While His love for us is genuine, and something that we should always remember, when we focus on that alone, it puts us at the center of the gospel. We start feeling as if we were worthy of Jesus’s sacrifice, even though we were the filthy sinners who desperately needed a Savior.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the center of the gospel. He should be the center of our thoughts and life. He is worthy of all of our admiration and dedication. Deuteronomy 10:17-18 says, “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.” God is big. He is so much bigger than we could ever imagine, yet He is love – sacrificial and unconditional love. This is what the gospel is all about. It’s about God. It’s about how amazing He is.
God loves us. We know that. But whenever we think about His love for us, we need to remember that His love for us is infused with grace and mercy. It is not deserved. His love isn’t supposed to boost our self-esteem. It is supposed to take our eyes off of ourselves, and place our full focus on our Great Redeemer.
In The Dream of the Rood, the Rood knew who Jesus was, and this knowledge of His character should have been humbling. The problem was that it had a very twisted view of its own worth. Romans 3:23-28 says, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” Salvation is an undeserved gift from Jesus’s sacrifice, to show God’s righteousness, and is only acquired by faith.