Text: Isaac Watts
Tune and refrain: Rachel Henkle, 2014
I still clearly remember the night I watched the movie The Passion of the Christ. I had always understood that Lent was a time for attending soup suppers and mid-week services at church. We went to a Good Friday service every year where the story of Christ’s death was depicted in a dramatic fashion – complete with a high school student posing on a wooden cross in the choir loft with other students acting the part of the Roman soldiers, driving in the nails with a very realistic sounding sound effect track to accompany. I always felt melancholy and sad – someone had died and we were there to commemorate that death.
But for some reason, after watching the Passion movie, it sunk in – maybe for the first time – someone went through that agony for me. And not just someone – the Son of God who never sinned and did not deserve any part of the punishment he received. And it was for me and my sin.
I’ve been thinking about this lately. The hymn I chose for this first week of Lent poses several questions. Did the Savior bleed and die for me? Would he really do that for sinners? Was it because of things that I have done that he had to go to the cross? For me, personalizing the price of sin can be difficult. I have always gone to church. I try hard to be a good person, do good things. I forget very quickly that it is only because of God’s relentless grace that I have any capacity for good. I want to take credit for being the halfway decent person that I am.
Maybe a temptation during Lent is to rely on our own will power to help us through – especially if we have given something up. When we want to reach for that can of soda or turn on the TV, we muster up some self-control and say no instead. And we feel good about ourselves. But we shouldn’t necessarily give things up so we can feel better about ourselves. Rather it is in turning away from things that distract us that we can turn to Christ and discover just how deeply we actually need him.
For me, asking myself the questions posed in this hymn help me remember. Sure, the world is full of evil things and evil people who really need a savior. But I need a savior too. There is evil and sin inside of me. For some reason, just asking the questions wasn’t enough for me this year. I know the rhetorical questions are assuming that the answer is yes – he did bleed and die for me. But I needed to make myself answer the questions to keep my self-righteous tendencies at bay. So, even though I know I can’t improve on Isaac Watts’ original words, I added 4 lines to drive home the point in my own heart. Indeed, it was for my sin that my Savior bled and died. It’s only by his grace I live. A sinner such as I. As you listen, take a moment to pose the questions to yourself.
Alas! and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For sinners such as I?
Thy body slain, sweet Jesus, Thine—
And bathed in its own blood—
While the firm mark of wrath divine,
His Soul in anguish stood.
Was it for crimes that I had done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!
Well might the sun in darkness hide
And shut his glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker died,
For man the creature’s sin.
Thus might I hide my blushing face
While His dear cross appears,
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt my eyes to tears.
But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give my self away
’Tis all that I can do.