The past week has been quite busy and exciting at work, and so I was unable to write a blog post last week. To the five people who read this blog: Please accept my apologies. I hope that I won’t have to miss any more.
Our new hymn for the season of Lent is the contemporary text and tune, “In Silent Pain the Eternal Son”. The text is by Christopher I Idle of the UK and the tune is by the Scottish minister, musician, and owner of a blue blazer, John Bell. This short hymn is a reflection on our Lord Jesus as He hangs on the cross and atones for the sins of the world.
In silent pain the eternal Son
Hangs derelict and still;
In darkened day His work is done,
Fulfilled, His Father’s will.
Uplifted for the world to see
He hangs in strangest victory,
For in His body on the tree
He carries all our ill.
According to dictionary.com, the word derelict means, “In a very poor condition as a result of disuse and neglect”. So we see our Savior in this first stanza sitting silent, neglected, and in very poor condition. We know from the Gospel accounts that Jesus said seven things from the cross. All seven of these things are short and Jesus was on the cross for 3 hours, so this leaves plenty of time for silence. The hymn-writer invites us to occupy the space of that silence and ponder the sacrifice that is before us.
We know from Mark 15 that there was darkness while Jesus was on the cross:
33And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.
We also know from John 19 that Jesus fulfilled everything He was sent to do:
30When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Another important idea in this first stanza is that of Jesus being lifted up. Jesus tells Nicodemus about this in John, chapter 3:
14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
We won’t go into detail with Moses and the serpent, but a bronze serpent was lifted up on a pole for the Israelites to gaze upon, and when they looked on it, they would be healed. In the same way, Jesus is lifted up to heal us from all our ill. Jesus talked again about being lifted up in John 12:
31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.
When Jesus was lifted up, He drew all men to himself. He took our sins, our ill, and our evil up on Himself and it died with Him. This leads us into stanza 2:
He died that we might die to sin
And live for righteousness;
The earth is stained to make us clean
And bring us into peace.
For peace He came and met its cost;
He gave Himself to save the lost;
He loved us to the uttermost
And paid for our release.
The substance of this stanza comes straight from 1st Peter 2:
22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
This idea of dying to sin and living for righteousness is a theme which runs through the entire New Testament. But what does it mean to live for righteousness? Perhaps these words from Luther’s Small Catechism can help:
I believe that Jesus Christ…is my Lord…who has redeemed me….that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives, and reigns to all eternity.
To live for righteousness means that we no longer serve ourselves, but we live to serve and Lord and Redeemer who has purchased and won us.
Notice the wonderful image in verses 3 and 4, where we see the earth stained, brining us cleansing. The line “He loved us to the uttermost” brings to mind these words from John 13:
when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
For strife He came to bring a sword,
The truth to end all lies;
To rule in us, our patient Lord,
Until all evil dies:
For in His hand He holds the stars,
His voice shall speak to end our wars,
And those who love Him see His scars
And look into His eyes.
Jesus did come to bring a sword, as it says in Matthew 10:
34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Jesus did come to atone for all the evil of the world. His is the Truth who ends all lies and rules within our hearts. As we move to the end of the hymn, we begin to hear the sounds of the book of Revelation. We spend the hymn looking at Jesus as His body lies broken and bruised, and the life leaves his eyes. However, when He comes again His voice shall end all wars and all evil, and His eyes will be shining brighter than the sun. To look into His eyes will be a truly wondrous experience. We will worship the one who was slain and is now alive, and we will rejoice in His presence.
From Revelation 1:
12Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. 19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. 20As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.