My maternal grandfather was a simple man, he loved people and they loved him back. And he loved singing and teaching his grandchildren his favorite hymns. Every Saturday evening—in preparation for church on Sunday—he would have us sing his favorite hymn, “Man of sorrows, what a name.” Two verses of this hymn always stay with me:

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
in my place condemned he stood;
sealed my pardon with his blood:
Alleluia! What a Savior!

Guilty, helpless, lost were we;
spotless Lamb of God was he:
full atonement – can it be?
Alleluia! What a Savior!

These words are a constant reminder of God’s love for me: that he would send his son (the suffering servant) to take upon himself my burdens and the whole world’s suffering. These verses also echo the words we hear from Isaiah 53, “…he was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity. He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.” Every time I sing this hymn, I hear Isaiah’s prophetic words.

As I walk the streets of Washington and look into the faces of those our society has left behind—those who are homeless, hungry, who may be victims of violence and abuse, suffering disease, the rain-soaked and elements-beaten man begging for a few coins—I am reminded that Christ suffered for them, too. And though they seek my compassion, I should be seeing the sanctity of their suffering as Christ’s suffering being reflected back to me.

As we prepare to journey with Jesus to Jerusalem and Golgotha during Holy Week, I give thanks to my dear grandfather for teaching me this simple hymn. Its power and poignancy continue to inspire my deepest prayers and reminds me that Jesus, the Man of Sorrows, holds me and all of us always in his compassionate embrace.

 

The full hymn:

Man of sorrows! What a name
for the Son of God, who came
ruined sinners to reclaim!
Alleluia! What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
in my place condemned he stood;
sealed my pardon with his blood:
Alleluia! What a Savior!

Guilty, helpless, lost were we;
spotless Lamb of God was he:
full atonement-can it be?
Alleluia! What a Savior!

Lifted up was he to die;
‘It is finished!’ was his cry;
now in heaven exalted high:
Alleluia! What a Savior!

When he comes, our glorious King,
all his ransomed home to bring,
then anew this song we’ll sing:
Alleluia! What a Savior!


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