“Oh, sacred Head now wounded, with grief and shame bowed down
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown.
Oh sacred Head, what glory, what bliss till now was Thine!
Yet though despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine.
What Thou my Lord has suffered was all for sinners gain.
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall my Savior. ‘Tis I deserve Thy place.
Look on me with Thy favor; vouchsafe to me Thy grace.”
These are the first two stanzas of an ancient and dearly beloved hymn. It has been sung by believers for centuries, and is still true and relevant, and I cannot sing it without being close to tears. The melody, written by H.L. Hassler (1564-1612) and arranged by J. S. Bach (1658-1750), is dignified and solemn and worthy of the lyrics, (attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux, c. 1150), which call us to remember the agony and grief of the Lord as He hung on the cross. Knowing that it should have been me there, and knowing that He deserved none of this ~ but had taken it willingly on Himself for the sake of His love for me ~ it is almost unbearable.
Around this time of year I often receive devotional e-mails from Christian friends recounting the horrible details of the crucifixion of Christ. First, the physical details: the torture of the scourging; the lashes each with their sharp metal tips to insure the ripping open of the flesh; the details of the nailing process; what happens to a human body hung in such a way; the full body weight suspended by the nails and what that does to the internal organs. The crown of thorns, the vinegar to drink.
Then, there is the mental side: the mocking and the taunting, the desertion by most of His followers; the derisive sign above His head: “Behold the King of the Jews!” There is the final, ultimate pain: the complete separation from the Father as the Lord Jesus received the consequence of my sin on Himself. Looking at this terrible scene through human eyes, it would seem to be an unspeakable tragedy. Christ was dead; the promise which He had brought to the world of a new order, a new relationship to God, was over. I am sure His followers thought He would fade into history as a brief flicker of light which had flamed out, and they would be left with only questions and self-doubt about their trust in Him.
Then there was Sunday.
What a day of confusion and triumph! There were those who loved Him coming to the tomb with their prepared spices and oils in order to minister to the body; the angel’s astonishing declaration the He had risen! The empty tomb and the discarded grave clothes. The joyous realization that all was not lost! He is alive! He had not perished, but has triumphed over death and Satan and has made the way clear for us to be reconciled to God. By His death and resurrection, we are no longer at enmity with God, but free to come into His Presence and worship.
“Christ the Lord is risen today! Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say: Alleluia!
Raise your songs of triumph high! Alleluia!
Sing ye heavens and earth reply! Alleluia!”
He was seen many times after the Resurrection, and He had to show them His mutilated hands and feet so that they could believe that it was really He who spoke with them. He continued to teach them and open their understanding of all that had occurred. Finally, at Bethany, He was taken up into heaven. Since His Ascension, He waits in heaven to receive us. We now wait in hope to see His coming again to take us to be with Himself, and finally to see His triumph when He shall reign forever and ever!
“Look ye saints, the sight is glorious. See the man of sorrows now!
From the fight returned victorious; every knee to Him shall bow.
Crown Him, crown Him; Crowns become the victor’s brow!
Hark those bursts of acclamation; Hark those loud triumphant chords!
Jesus takes the highest station; oh, what joy the sight affords
Crown Him, crown Him! King of Kings and Lord of Lords!”
The good news of Easter is the cornerstone of our faith. Not only has Christ made it possible for us to be reconciled to God, but the Resurrection confirms the joyous truth that we will be with Him in eternity. Death and Satan have been defeated; Christ is triumphant and in heaven preparing a place for us! Happy, happy Easter!
As we celebrate this joyous Day, my prayer for all of us is this: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. “ (Ephesians 1:17-21 RSV)
Behold our King… and our God!
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