This is the first hymn in our “Season in Song” Lenten Devotion series. “Jesus, I Will Ponder Now” was chosen by missionary Rev. Alan Ludwig, serving in Siberia as a theological educator. Rev. Ludwig says: “This beautiful hymn gives rich, inexhaustible food for Lenten meditation. It portrays the agony of Christ’s suffering and expresses the horror that my sins brought this about. At the same time, it assures me that the wounds of Christ are my refuge. My proper response can be only one: to love and serve Him. Finally, the hymn leads me into the eternal praise of the Savior.”
Rev. Dr. Christopher Ahlman, serving in Leipzig, Germany, improvised a Chorale Partita on the hymn tune, “Jesu Kreuz, Leiden und Pein.”
Yet, O Lord, not thus alone
Make me see your passion,
But its cause to me make known
And its termination.
Ah! I also and my sin
Wrought Your deep affliction;
This indeed the cause has been
Of Your crucifixion.
Grant that I Your passion view
With repentant grieving
Let me not bring shame to You
by unholy living.
How could I refuse to shun
Ev’ry sinful pleasure.
Since for me God’s only Son
Suffered without measure.
When we think about Christ’s death, how deeply and how closely do we look? Do we look at an empty, smooth cross? Do we envision a cross with the darkened silhouette of our Lord, the crown of thorns just barely more than a smooth circle in the shadow? Do we look on a Crucifix with nails and crown of thorns, but little to no blood?
Look closer. Look closer, and ponder the extent of Jesus’ Passion. Enter into the courtyard where Pilate delivered Him over to be crucified. Watch as they flog His naked back with coarse whips fitted with nails. Watch as His skin tears, ripping wide open to reveal the muscle underneath. Watch as the red blood seeps from His wounds. Watch closely as they cover His wounds with the purple robe, the coarse fabric grating against the open wounds in His back as they mock and deride Him. See them twist the crown of thorns and drive it onto His head. See the thorns puncture His flesh and watch the blood run down. Look closely as He lifts the heavy weight of the cross and carries it over His shoulder and across His back. Watch as that heavy burden digs into the fresh wounds in His back as splinters break away, planting themselves into the exposed muscle and flesh…
Now see in that heavy burden your sins. See in the wounds the scourge of your anger toward your co-worker. See your lusting after the woman at the gym. See your jealousy of the neighbor who seems always to have such an easy life while you struggle. See that moment yesterday, when you spoke derisively of the woman at the grocery store with four screaming children in tow. Look closely at your mother’s disappointment as you fail to return her calls. Look at the “loophole” in the law that you exploited to get something you didn’t deserve. Take a hard look at last Sunday morning when you silenced the alarm, turned over on your other side, and chose to sleep through church. Look deep inside and find the place where you put your deepest trust—in a spouse, perhaps, in money, or in a new job. Those things you trust deep down even more so than God. Look closely at your wretched state…
And weep. Cry out with the hymn-writer in total and complete repentance: “Ah! I also and my sin/ Wrought Your deep affliction;/ This indeed the cause has been/ Of Your crucifixion.” Rend your hearts. Fall to your knees…
Then look once more on Christ’s Passion. Look and see the hands and feet, driven through with nails. Look closely and see the sweat mingling with blood, the saltiness stinging every open wound. Look closely at the determination on His bloody face as He forgives His tormentors and breaths His last. Watch closely as they drive the spear through His side and as His blood runs out, mixed with water. Look closely and see not judgement for your sins, but peace and pardon. Look closely and sing:
If my sins give me alarm
And my conscience grieve me,
Let Your cross my fear disarm;
Peace of conscience give me.
Help me see forgiveness won
By Your holy passion.
If for me He slays His Son,
God must have compassion.
Look and see in those wounds the gifts of God for you—Holy Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, Absolution—and know that God does have compassion on you. On me. On us all.
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus Christ, our Crucified Savior, bring out hearts to true repentance so that we may look on Your cross and see the peace and pardon You worked for us. Renew our faith and strengthen us during this Lenten season, for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
- Pray for the work of Rev. Ludwig in Siberia as he works with our sister church body, the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC).
- Did you miss last week’s Ash Wednesday devotion? You can read it here.
- Next week The Season in Song will reflect on “My Song is Love Unknown” with a guest devotion from Dr. Jerrode Marsh, as well as video of her arrangement of the hymn sung by the choir of Trinity Lutheran Church, Frankfurt.