Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Many of us have heard old hymns long enough to understand the meanings of three and four-hundred year old English. Some of us were brought up with Bibles that were in the same English language that Shakespeare used. But I find it useful to occasionally go to an old hymn and paraphrase it into modern English. These paraphrases can’t be sung to the same tune, but they explain exactly what the old-fashioned words are saying.
So, I want to share with you the meaning behind an old Good Friday hymn “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.”
1 O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down;
now scornfully surrounded with thorns, thine only crown;
O sacred Head, what glory, what bliss ’til now was thine!
Yet, though despised and gory, I joy to call thee mine.
2 What thou, my Lord, hast 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.
3 What language shall I borrow to thank thee, dearest Friend,
for this, thy dying sorrow, thy pity without end?
O make me thine forever; and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to thee.
Now, each verse paraphrased in modern English:
- Jesus (on the cross) is hanging down his wounded head
which is weighed down with his grief and our shame.
He is surrounded by people mocking him as he wears a crown of thorns.
It was once glorious to see the face of Jesus, but (on the cross) he is a tragic figure.
But even though he is hated and his face is battered and bleeding, I am still glad that he is mine.
2 The things that you have suffered, Lord, were for the sake of people lost in sin.
You are suffering for the things I have done wrong, but you have taken the consequences upon yourself.
Look, I am falling to my knees, because you took my place to spare me this pain.
Please look at me with your mercy and promise to me your life-changing forgiveness.
3 What words could I possibly use to thank you, my dearest friend
for the sorrow that you took upon yourself for my sake, with endless compassion?
Please make me yours forever, and if I should ever wander away from you,
let my love for you go on much longer than my earthly life! [Or – Let me die before my devotion to you dies]
I have often told people that this is my favorite hymn. The third verse is my favorite. It is a very personal passage that lets us know that Jesus is a dear friend, who does all he can so he can keep on loving us forever.
In John 15, Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Good Friday was awful, but it was an overwhelming expression of love that is equivalent of pushing someone out of the way of an oncoming car, or throwing yourself on a hand grenade to save your companions, or jumping between a lion and its intended prey so they might be rescued. It is the “last full measure of devotion.” That is what Jesus has done for you and me.
What words could we possibly use to show our thanks?