Sunday, March 11, 2012

O Sacred Head now wounded




“They …twisted together a crown of thorns.”

Mark 15:17


          The writer of this ancient poem sought, by means of his medieval imagination, to stand before the cross. For me, it is the finest lament to be found in the hymnal. It moves from empathy to contrition and finally to thanksgiving.

          The Gospels tell us that the only followers of Jesus to actually stand before the cross were the disciple John and the women who had followed and supported Him all along. The detail is also given in two of the Gospels that they were standing “at a distance” (Luke 23:49). (It’s hard for me to imagine Peter not being there as well, since he and John seem to have become constant companions after the arrest.)

          What they witnessed was more than a man being tortured to death. As Jesus pushed up, again and again on the nails that had been driven through His feet, gasping for enough air to utter one of those seven last words, the witnesses also were seeing the death of all their dreams. Until we understand this, we will not “get” Easter. To stand before the cross and watch Jesus die was to become painfully aware that it had all been for nothing. He would not save Himself, nor would the Father. Good Friday does not mean the death of Jesus; it is the death of all hope.  It was a lived-out lament. As Buechner says, “The miracle of the cross is that there was no miracle.”

          The medieval poet found his way to this hopeless place and put words to his experience for you and me. We cannot count how many believers in the past have arrived at the foot of the cross with the help of the desolate words of the first few verses. Only by means of their dark cloth, does the brilliance of the diamond of the final verse shine.

          There is no language, nor are there words, to thank Him for His “dying sorrow”. The only appropriate response is for us to give ourselves completely to Him, to ask that He would “make [us] Thine forever.”

          This is a wonderful example of the end of lament. The joyful place at which this hymn finally arrives could not have been reached any other way except through the darkness of lament. This is not simply a catharsis; it is an example of worshiping God as well.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, make me Thine forever!

Seek Him First,


All text and images Michael Card © 2011 | Organized, adapted by Charity Klicka

1 comment:

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