Man of Sorrows
Jerry Bridges has famously said that we need to preach the gospel to ourselves every day. Some may wonder why that is necessary. After all, they reason, the gospel brought us to salvation, but of what essential good is it to us beyond that point? But it is essential. It is essential for us to not only remember the gospel but to grow in our understanding of it, because its truth is rich and deep and glorious, and takes time to grasp. Having a firm grip on the gospel helps us to see the love of God in more profound ways; it helps us worship more deeply as we see this love. The gospel opens our eyes and heart to otherwise unfathomable realities as we witness the courage of Jesus, the power of the Spirit, the depravity from which we were raised, and the awful fate we would have faced apart from His salvation,
Right off the bat this song fixes our eyes on Jesus. The appellation “Man of Sorrows” comes from Isaiah 53, a messianic passage that lays out the picture of the suffering servant. Often called the Gospel of Isaiah, this passage displays a very different kind of Messiah than the people of Jesus’ time were expecting. Even in our day, when we get our eyes off the gospel, people can make Jesus into a far different Messiah or Savior than He is. Man has a tendency to remake God into our own image, and we need regular doses of gospel truth to keep our minds from wandering away from the real Jesus, and the reasons He gave His life for us.
The word translated sorrows here is also translated as suffering or pain. It is important for us to regularly reflect on the suffering Jesus endured. This is not just to be morbid, but so we can realize just how awful our sin is for it to cost our Savior so much in agony. So often we take our sin too lightly, forgetting how much our holy God hates sin, and how our sin earned us God’s eternal wrath. But Jesus took that wrath for us, at great personal cost to Himself. When we regularly ponder this amazing truth it humbles us, it causes us to take our sin more seriously, and to see it as the personal affront to God that it is. Only when we understand the cost and the love will we learn to loath our sin as God does.
Such meditation also gives us a richer appreciation for the love of the Godhead displayed in Jesus’ willingness to die for His enemies. It reminds us that He washed the feet of His betrayer, died for His disciples who denied and abandoned Him, and it humbles us to realize that we were His enemies, we have denied, abandoned, maybe even betrayed Him, and yet He died to redeem us and take us into loving union with Him. As we think of what it must have been like for the Creator of all, whose voice had the power to speak life into this world, to stand silent as people lied about Him and mocked Him, we worship Him for His self-control and His devotion to the Father’s will and our welfare. How many of us, if we were imbued with His power, wouldn’t have left masses of smoldering heaps of our enemies who’d dare to mock us? But as we view Him bearing the horrific torture and agony without lashing out or calling on those angels who would have leapt to His aid, we again see the lengths He would go to ensure our salvation and eternity with Him. Does that not just fill us with wonder, gratitude and worship?
Songs like this one help us to remember those bedrock truths we seem easily to forget. The distractions and cares of this world tend to wear away at them or dull them in our minds. That is probably why one of the big themes of the book of Deuteronomy is “remember.” The Lord had redeemed and delivered them, but over and over Moses tells the people to be careful to remember, not to forget, to call to mind, because it is our human nature to forget, to turn away, and to backslide. It was true of Israel and it is true of us.
Remembering the gospel gives us the power we need for living the Christian life that follows our own experience at the cross. It reminds us that because we died with Christ and rose with Him (Rom. 6:6; Gal. 2:20; Col. 2:12, 20; 3:1-2; 2 Tim. 2:11), “the curse of sin has no hold on [us]”. When the enemy accuses us of our sins, we know that our debt has been paid in full by Jesus—not just cancelled or written off— every bit of it was “paid in full by the precious blood that [our] Jesus spilled.” Jesus is now standing at the throne of God advocating for us when the enemy casts his aspersions against us, saying, “’The Lord rebuke you, Satan, the Lord rebuke you,’ this one is a brand that I have plucked from the fire” (Zech. 3). As we realize and remember all the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus has brought to us, we live more victorious lives, worship and freely fellowship with God in richer communion, and walk in more humble, righteous, and holy ways before the Lord. Therefore, let us remember; let us preach the gospel to ourselves daily. Let us rejoice for our great salvation and in our wonderful Savior, this Man of Sorrows; now Lord of all!