Week 8: Life of Christ


O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High

Text: Thomas à Kempis (1380–1471), 1854

Tune: Traditional English, 1906

  1. The hymn is a whirlwind tour of Jesus’ life, from birth to death and resurrection, held together by little more than the repeated phrase “for us”. Some of these connections are more intuitive than others, however. In what way was Christ baptized “for us”? How was His temptation “for us”?
    • Regarding Jesus’ baptism:
      • Jesus was baptized as an example for us to do the same and, although he had no need for baptism (Matthew 3:13-15), was identifying Himself with sinners; baptism is not a means to repentance, but rather a symbol of it
      • Jesus’ divinity was publicly displayed at His baptism (Luke 3:21-22)
      • Jesus’ baptism showed the world the messianic era had begun (like the dove for Noah, the dove descending on Jesus symbolizes the end of God’s wrath and a new peace)
      • Jesus’ baptism was part of his sacrifice; for Israelites, on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest was washed in water before performing the sacrifice (Leviticus 16:4)
      • The dove was the only bird allowed for ritual sacrifice, and usually reserved for the poorest members of society; by extension, Jesus’ sacrifice is for the poorest of us
    • Regarding Jesus’ temptation:
      • Jesus’ sinlessness was necessary for our salvation; by resisting temptation he was qualified as the perfect sacrifice, blameless Lamb of God (Hebrews 2:17-18)
      • Jesus’ third temptation was that of an “easy way out”, offered rule of kingdoms on earth without the need for sacrifice or suffering (Matthew 4:8-9); his rejection was a selfless gift affirming His sacrifice for our sake

All Glory, Laud, and Honor

Text: Theodulf of Orléans (c. 750–821), 1854

Tune: Melchior Teschner (1584–1635), 1615

  1. This text is specifically for Palm Sunday, dealing with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It connects our own praise with the praise of the Hebrews, and in the last verse asks God to accept our prayers just as he accepted the praise in Jerusalem. Why do we need to ask God to accept our praise? How is our praise today like the praises of the palm wavers in Jerusalem?
    • We are imperfect humans and our praise is fickle. The same crowd shouting “Hosanna!” would be shouting “Crucify him!” just a few days later.
    • Our praise is laced with our own selfish desires; “hosanna” is a shout of joy but literally means “save us”, underscoring the Hebrews’ desire for a military and political savior from the Romans
    • Strictly speaking, God doesn’t need our praise - it’s a gift. Jesus said even if the crowds were silent, the stones would cry out in praise. (Luke 19:40)

Go to Dark Gethsemane

Text: James Montgomery (1771–1854), 1820

Tune: Richard Redhead (1820–1901), 1853

  1. Montgomery presents a series of Passion scenes, each of which has a small lesson to learn. The first verse begins with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and instructs us to “learn of Jesus Christ to pray”. What’s the connection here to “the tempter’s power”, and what does it teach us about prayer?

    • Gethsemane literally means “place of pressing”; located on the Mount of Olives, this would be an olive press. Figuratively, this was a place of pressing (pressure) for Jesus, leading to His arrest
    • When they arrived, Jesus instructed the disciples to “pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Luke 22:40). He also asked God to “take this cup from me” (Mark 14:36), longing for an easy way out and reminiscent of His final temptation in the wilderness
    • Lesson is that prayer, watchful prayer (“watch with me”, Matthew 26:38), is temptation’s antidote
  2. The hymn has a pervasive darkness to it (“bitter hour”, “mournful mountain”, “solitude and gloom”), even in the final verse leading up to Christ’s resurrection, and includes two somewhat cryptic images: “the wormwood and the gall” (verse two), and “breathless clay” (verse four). What is the meaning behind these phrases, and what do they contribute to the overall theme of the hymn?

    • Wormwood is a bitter shrub used for medicinal purposes, and gall can refer either to bitter poppy juice or bile (as in the gallbladder). Symbolically, they represent bitter medicine to be swallowed.
    • In Genesis, humans were created when God breathed life into dust, or clay, (Genesis 2:7). Breathless clay represents Christ as not just dead, but completely separated from God. (As the Apostles’ Creed says, “He descended into hell”.)