It is Easter again! A time when hear the same old story: the story of that rugged cross. That story that matters more than any other story in human history! The story that brought good news to such wretched people like us. Even though a cross was such a shameful symbol of execution, it has been for ages been used as the symbol of Christianity. It is on the Cross of Christ, where a beautiful exchange took place: Jesus died our death that we could live his life, bore all our sin that we could be set free, endured all God’s wrath on our behalf that we could stand before the throne of God above.
To help me think of the Cross, I have greatly reflected on Stuart Townend’s hymn How deep the father’s love for us. In this hymn, written in 1995, Stuart helps us to greatly think on the Cross of Christ, see how we were actively involved in Christ’s death and wonder why we should gain from its reward.
Someone commenting on this song said:
“What I appreciate most about this song is that it connects the love of God to Jesus Christ, specifically, to his death on the cross. “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” doesn’t turn God’s love into something intangible, something mushy, something that is simply a matter of emotion. Rather, the lyrics draw us to the centre of God’s love in Christ, which is the cross.
Thus, by focusing on this centre, the song helps us understand Paul’s prayer for Ephesians “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”“
In the first Stanza, Stuart calls us to ponder on how deep God’s love for us – that he gave the sinless to die for the sinful. This love is worth a thought. It is beyond all measure, as Stuart notes in these lines:
How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
In the second half of the stanza, he ponders on Jesus’ cry on the Cross. We read from the gospel writers, that Jesus uttered loud cry to the Father: “My God My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) This cry of dereliction, was as a result of the father turning his face away from Jesus as he bore the sins of the world. The result of this punishment, Stuart notes in this great hymn, was to bring many sons to glory!
How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory
The gospel writers emphasises the irony of the crucifixion. Jesus was mocked by passersby, by priests, by soldiers and even by robbers crucified with him. They sneered him to display his power, which he claimed to have, by saving himself from the cross. However, we know the truth that if Jesus saved himself, he could not have saved us. Our sin was on his shoulders, as Stuart notes in the following stanza of this cross-centred song:
Behold the man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers
Substitution this was! I deserved what he got. He died in my place. See how the following lines of the song helpfully puts it:
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished
Paul writing to Corinthians said: But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. This too is what Stuart calls us to sing:
I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
See in the last stanza how Stuart helpfully uses a powerful question to challenge us to think more of the achievement of the cross. Here is one line that lingers in my mind at times when I go to bed, and when I wake up: “Why should I gain from His reward?” It is a good stanza to remember during those ‘Oh, what a wretched man I am moments’ that we all experience from time to time…
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom
I loved how someone helpfully reflected on this hymn:
This hymn “How Deep the Father’s Love” teach the basics of our faith. The stanzas discuss not only the death and resurrection of Jesus, but also the love of God and sin of man. In my opinion, the last lines of the hymn are some of the finest words ever penned, as we sing, “But this I know with all my heart: His wounds have paid my ransom.” Those words bring the worshiper’s mind back to the fact of his/her own sin, but also the glorious salvation brought about by Jesus Christ.