Today is Good Friday. It is the day that, as Christians, we honor the crucial sacrifice of Christ on the Cross at Calvary. Centered around a dark, bleak execution, Good Friday reminds us that suffering precedes glory.
28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again.
Matthew 27:28-30 (NIV)
Welcome to Day 18 of The COVID-19 Devotionals.
Climbing to the top of the mountain demands effort. Successfully traversing the dark valley of COVID-19 requires stamina and commitment. We are told that social distancing is working and there are signs that the curve is flattening in different places around the country. In Texas, we are about 2-3 weeks behind New York and California. By most counts, the peak is still ahead for us living in Dallas-Fort Worth. But, we should be encouraged by the light seen at the end of the tunnel by those in position to see it.
During my personal morning devotional time, I was reminded of an old hymn titled “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded,” written by Bernard of Clairvaux. A respected abbot of a French monastery, Martin Luther wrote of Bernard of Clairvaux, “He was the best monk that ever lived, whom I admire beyond all the rest put together.” Clairvaux served the church with excellence and he served as one of the most influential church leaders of his time.
“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” is part of the last portion of a long poem addressing various parts of Christ’s body as He suffered on the Cross. The poem is divided into seven sections focusing on Christ’s feet, knees, hands, side, breasts, heart, and face.
Paul Gerhadt, a Lutheran theologian and hymnist, translated the poem from Latin into German sometime in the mid-17th century. Gerhardt’s translation became a German hymn known as “O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden.” In 1752, Anglican vicar John Gambold translated the poem into English, titling it “O Head so full of bruises.” James Waddel, an American Presbyterian minister, updated the English translation in 1830 to “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.”
The words of “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” have traversed a long, arduous journey, standing the test of time. The message of the original writer persevered through centuries of changes and the pens of numerous collaborators. The words resonate deeply on Good Friday.
“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.
Hans Leo Hassler,a German composer and organist who lived during the mid-16th and early-17th century, is credited with composing the music for the German and English versions of what eventually became “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.” Hassler wrote the music for a secular love song that appeared on the scene in 1600 and was called “Mein G’müt ist mir verwirret (My Mind is Confused Within Me).” About 1656, Johann Crüger appropriated Hassler’s tune, simplifying the rhythm for Gerhardt’s version of the German hymn around 1656. Later, renowned composer Johann Sebastian Bach arranged the melody and used the hymn in his work, “St. Matthew Passion.”
Like the words, the music for “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” has also traveled a great distance and the hymn has played a part in works by contemporary songwriters including Paul Simon, Peter, Paul & Mary, John K Samson, and Dave Brubeck.
Good Friday is the day that as Christians, we remember the day Jesus willingly suffered and died by crucifixion, serving as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. To learn more about why that matters, please read my previous post.
If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:10 (NIV)
For us to grasp the good news of the Gospel, you and I have to understand the tough news—the bad news—that apart from Christ, we are sinful people living under the weight of condemnation. Through His atoning sacrifice, Jesus lifted that burden from us. He paid the penalty once and for all. We simply need to receive His gift by repenting (turning away from the wrong path) and believing in Him and the saving work He has done for us (the right path).
On this Good Friday, may you reflect on the sacrifice God made for you. If this is Good News to you and it is your first time hearing it, I urge you to step forward in faith, repent and believe in Jesus Christ.
O God, we thank You for Jesus. We are humbled and overwhelmed with gratitude at the mere thought of what His death and resurrection mean to us living in the 21st century. Thank You, O Lord, for the gift of music and how songs encourage and guide us throughout history. Thank You, for the truths that hymns, worship, and church songs carry far and near. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Amid these are unusual times filled with great uncertainty, you can be sure that God so loved you that He gave His only Son that if you believe in Him, you will not perish but have eternal life. God’s done all the work. Jesus IS enough. Please receive His gift of salvation today.
During this COVID-19 crisis, Terri and I continue to pray for you and those you love.
Stay healthy. Be safe. Keep the faith.
The Devotional Guy™
ABOUT: The Devotional Guy™is a writing ministry of longtime blogger Rainer Bantau, a chaplain actively and intentionally sharing the love of Jesus with people working in the marketplace, the homeless, and wherever else he encounters them.
Osbeck, Kenneth W. (2002). Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions. Kregel Publications. Grand Rapids, Michigan.