Three Wooden Crosses

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

  • Luke 23:39-43

A little over a week ago, I was watching a Gaither Homecoming Hour show and Randy Travis was singing Gospel music.  Before he sang the last song, he gave a little interview clip about it.  The composer had wanted to put it on his album, but there wasn’t room.  He offered it to Travis.  When Randy Travis listened the first time through, he liked the refrain and the catchphrase.  He decided to listen again, and he discovered a deeper meaning. Randy Travis’ life leading up to accepting Jesus is somewhat like the story, at least a rough life with a lot of problems and bad decisions.

I became intrigued.  I had heard the song, sung by other artists.  It was nice, but I had never really listened to the song.  I had never searched for a deeper meaning.  I have read that the composer, Doug Williams, had the beginning long before he figured out how the story would end.  My take on the deeper meaning may be my ideas only and not the intension of the composer or Randy Travis’ idea of a deeper meaning.

By the way, Three Wooden Crosses, is the first Christian song to top the Billboard Country chart.  There are three country music charts.  Three Wooden Crosses is the first song of any type to be number one on all three country charts at the same time.  And if you can get through the song without needing a tissue, you are better than me, but my wife says that I do that at all the wrong moments.

First, let’s look at the intent of their trip to Mexico.  We can assume that the farmer was on vacation.  As Jerry Clower would say, he had a crop laid by (proven in the next verse), and while waiting for the harvest, he took a little trip.  The teacher was seeking higher education, also an assumption.  Was she seeking to learn something?  Teachers are required to continue their education in order to maintain their teaching certification.  Or was she seeking to teach people in Mexico, so that they might learn more?  Or were the intent of the farmer and the teacher the other way around?  Then, the other two were looking for lost souls.  Wait!  One was a preacher, but the other was a hooker.  Yes, the preacher was looking to save lost souls, and the hooker was looking to tempt them.

Okay, that hardly goes deep at all.

We don’t know if the farmer and the teacher suffered from their injuries.  Maybe they died instantly.  But the preacher suffered, at least for a while.  Then again, is it suffering when, through the pain of his injuries, he could see the Promised Land?  But he hung on, because God had one more job for him to do.  Would it not be worth the pain of an injury unto death to save one more soul?  I’ve always, as probably everyone else, wanted to die in my sleep, having felt no pain, but to save a soul, I believe I could endure it.

Okay, a little deeper, but is there something else?  Maybe something that the composer never intended?

There are three wooden crosses on the right side of the highway.  Why there’s not four of them is finally answered.  The hooker lived.  She read the blood-stained Bible to her child who became a preacher.  But each time the question is asked, is this question asking something else?

Crosses are left by the highway in most of the states in the US to remember people who have lost their lives in a traffic accident.  Before I lost my job, I passed two crosses driving to and from the office.  Neither were there when I started taking that route.  One was a boy on drugs who missed a curve.  The other was the granddaughter of a friend.  She didn’t smoke, but her friend needed some cigarettes and all the teenagers piled into the car.  They also missed a curve, and the young girl lost her life, the only one to pass away in a car filled the kids.

When you see multiple crosses, it is usually a few people in the same accident who lost their lives.  I have known a few locations where the multiple crosses meant a really treacherous part of the road.  If you stopped and read the dates, you would find various accidents in the same curve over many years.

But why three crosses, and not four?  Or five?  The composer could have added a lot of people on a bus.  He might need an extra verse or two, but…  No, three crosses, with one survivor.  Nothing is ever said about the bus driver.

Think outside the box for a minute.  If there were no crosses placed next to the highway to remember motorists who have passed away, there would still be three crosses, here and there, along the highway, especially during this season of Lent.  One is in remembrance of Jesus, who died to save us from our sins.  The other two are for the criminals who died along with Him.  Yes, the composer is correct.  There are three wooden crosses on the right side of the highway, or the left (but you can turn around once you pass them).  And only Heaven knows why there is not a fourth cross.  Maybe, just maybe, there is not a reason for the fourth cross at all.

Jesus died so that we might live.

“A farmer and a teacher, a hooker and a preacher,
Ridin’ on a midnight bus bound for Mexico.
One’s headed for vacation, one for higher education,
An’ two of them were searchin’ for lost souls.
That driver never ever saw the stop sign.
An’ eighteen wheelers can’t stop on a dime.

“There are three wooden crosses on the right side of the highway,
Why there’s not four of them, Heaven only knows.
I guess it’s not what you take when you leave this world behind you,
It’s what you leave behind you when you go.

“That farmer left a harvest, a home and eighty acres,
The faith an’ love for growin’ things in his young son’s heart.
An’ that teacher left her wisdom in the minds of lots of children:
Did her best to give ’em all a better start.
An’ that preacher whispered: “Can’t you see the Promised Land?”
As he laid his blood-stained bible in that hooker’s hand.

“There are three wooden crosses on the right side of the highway,
Why there’s not four of them, Heaven only knows.
I guess it’s not what you take when you leave this world behind you,
It’s what you leave behind you when you go.

“That’s the story that our preacher told last Sunday.
As he held that blood-stained bible up,
For all of us to see.
He said: “Bless the farmer, and the teacher, an’ the preacher;
“Who gave this Bible to my mamma,
“Who read it to me.”

“There are three wooden crosses on the right side of the highway,
Why there’s not four of them, now I guess we know.
It’s not what you take when you leave this world behind you,
It’s what you leave behind you when you go.”

  • Doug Johnson and Kim Williams, Three Wooden Crosses

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.


Add yours →

  1. March 2, 2020 — 4:09 pm

    I love that song❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love that song, haven’t heard it in a long time. I think I have my next request for “Alexa.” 😉
    I remember decades ago when a songwriter whose songs you would recognize was interviewed on a Christian TV show. He had worked with Randy Travis and said he was praying for him. I liked Randy Travis, too, and I remember praying and later finding out he had become a believer. 🙂
    Thanks for the reminder of a great song and an answered prayer – and for yet another reason to smile today.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: