03312019 Lent 4 Emmanuel Lutheran Export PA

“Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed”

03312019 Lent 4 Emmanuel Lutheran Export PA

March 31, 2019
“Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed”
Sermon Audio

When the ground we sit on today was still considered a colony of the British Empire and figures like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry were unknown, a hymn was written that we will be considering today.  One of Isaac Watts best known hymns, “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed” was first published in “Hymns and Spiritual Songs” in 1707 and our hymnal includes it in the Lenten section.  Let’s begin our pondering by singing the first two stanzas of “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed”!

1 Alas! And did my Savior bleed, and did my sov'reign die?  Would he devote that sacred head for sinners such as I?

2 Was it for sins that I have done he groaned upon the tree?  Amazing pity, grace unknown, and love beyond degree!

It is clear Watts two questions in the first stanza are poignantly considering two things, first did Jesus die?  The question is not so much of a doubt of this fact, but truly a statement of what Jesus did actually do. ‘Alas! And did my Savior bleed, and did my sov’reign die?’  Watts by posing the question isn’t doubting it, but speaking of how unbelievers might ask the question because they have not heard the Gospel nor heard the plan of salvation for them.   The second question, ‘Would he devote that sacred head for sinners such as I?’ is more a questioned plea for believers and unbelievers alike  contemplating if Jesus would do this for us. And the answer is simple, yes, Jesus sacrificed Himself and died for us and for all of mankind out of His love for us.  That is the gift of grace Jesus Christ came down from heaven to offer because He was the sacrifice for us on the cross of Calvary.

When the second verse of “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed”  connects us with our sins, we may at first bristle, because in, through and by our baptism we have been forgiven of our sins.  Yet Watts understood his human nature and what scripture says, ‘all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’ when he asks, ‘Was it for sins that I have done he groaned upon the tree?’  Jesus did groan under the weight of the sin of ‘all of mankind’.  For Jesus did this, out of His ‘Amazing pity, grace unknown, and love beyond degree!’  This is the Gospel of our salvation where Watts answers to what degree Jesus was willing to go to offer humanity the gift of ‘grace’ and ‘love beyond degree’ that knows no equal and offers us salvation with the realization that “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed” for us and all of mankind.

Let’s join our voices in singing the third and fourth stanza of ‘Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed”!

3 Well might the sun in darkness hide and shut its glories in when God, the mighty maker, died for his own creatures’ sin.

4 Thus might I hide my blushing face while his dear cross appears, dissolve my heart in thankfulness, and melt mine eyes to tears.

When Hugh Wilson, penned the tune for this hymn, he was far removed from what Isaac Watts dealt with, but it is clear his tune connects to the balance that exists between these two stanzas of Watts.  Notice the third stanza is speaking of the potential of what God ‘might do’. ‘Well might the sun in darkness hide’ tells that God ‘might’ ‘hide’ and this revelation should concern us.  Because if God, ‘shut its glories in when God, the mighty maker, died for His own creatures’ sin’ we naturally would be in clear fear of for our very lives, because of our ‘sin’.  But our fear need not control us, it should not make us doubt like satan helped Adam and Eve to do in the Garden of Eden, because God out of His abundant mercy and love for us forgives each of us of our sin and the sin of the entire world out of His love for us.

Yet, our reaction may paralyze us when we see where He hangs as we sang, ‘Thus might I hide my blushing face while his dear cross appears’.  If we do ‘hide’ because we know and feel conviction, Watts inspires us through “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed!” to throw back the shame and fear which covers our face and our ‘hearts’.  And in triumph, because of God’s grace, ‘dissolve my heart in thankfulness, and melt mine eyes to tears’ for the victory He offers us on the cross of the sacrifice of His Son.  So no longer should we ‘hide’ our ‘face’ nor be controlled by fear, because the victory is ours when we lift our voices ‘in thankfulness’ and praise of what God offers us in, through and by His Son’s Blood.

Our final stanza that we will conclude with this morning points to the reality that our ‘tears of grief cannot repay’.  The exchange of tears for Jesus sacrifice are not an equivalent currency.  Salvation cannot be earned by us or our works, nor can a ‘debt of love I owe’ be made equal by us or the labor of our hands.  For the grace of God is free for us and all of mankind.  God’s grace is without equal and requires nothing from us, we cannot earn it.  Yet, though we cannot earn it, we can attempt to respond to the gift. This is why Watts last words in the hymn say, ‘Lord, I give myself away: ‘tis all that I can do’.  Our lives are given back to us as a direct result of God’s gift to us and we in turn can respond to God’s gift.  So, let us lay claim to this truth of God’s gift of God’s grace, mercy and love to us by singing the last stanza of “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed!”

5 But tears of grief cannot repay the debt of love I owe; here, Lord, I give myself away: 'tis all that I can do.

AMEN!