O Dearest Jesus
‘O dearest Jesus, what law hast thou broken’ was the first line of one of my favourite hymns from my childhood. Well, I guess it was, because more than most traditional hymns, it’s stayed with me. The melody has a lot to do with it. One of Johann Crüger’s great tunes, based on an older melody as so many good tunes are. As a guitarist I think the tune works as well on guitar as it does on a piano or organ.
In 1982 I wrote a fresh bunch of words for the tune, words which many people have enjoyed singing over the last 30 years (published in All Together OK in 1996). When our pastor, John Strelan, asked me if I’d be interested in writing new verses to the hymn for a series of 9 readings he’s using this Good Friday, I couldn’t resist. Mind you, it was only just over a week ago that he asked & it really needed to be done by today. It was only after I started work on it that I realized it would be a bit harder than some projects. The song requires 2 double syllable rhymes in each verse (e.g. ‘broken-spoken’, ‘jeer you-cheer you’).
I finished up doing 8 verses, retaining the last verse from my earlier effort, which John had mentioned he especially liked
1. O dearest Jesus, pleading in the garden
‘Lord, take this cup’ – but there’s no word of pardon
We fall asleep, so unaware of danger
death just a stranger
2. Night is the cover for this sad betrayal
they paid him well but life is not for sale
Sealed with a kiss, the sign of his defection,
of his deception
3. Silent you stand awaiting condemnation.
They can’t agree on any accusation.
Yours is the choice and now has come the hour
– yours is the power!
4. There by the fire-light, others recognized him.
Three accusations, three times he denied him.
No place to hide when they’ve exposed his lying
– bitter his crying.
5. You know our choices long before we make them,
good ones and bad ones, how we keep or break them.
You know our sins that keep on multiplying
we cause your dying.
6. His weary body, stripped for execution,
fixed to the wood, so final this solution.
Wine mixed with myrrh they offer to supply you,
they crucify you.
7. O dearest Jesus, how can this be glory?
Saviour and Lord, we struggle with this story.
Soldiers to watch you, criminals beside you,
others deride you.
8. Darkness has come, the darkest day of history
Light disappears when faced with such a mystery
We hear him cry when all the world is shaking –
God’s heart is breaking.
9. Sleep, dearest Jesus, sleep until your waking.
When morning comes this old world will be breaking.
Death cannot hold you, death is not that clever,
God lives forever!
Robin Mann © 2016
Robin Mann, March 2016