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Ah, holy Jesus, how hast Thou offended

Text: Johann Heermann, 1585-1647; trans. by Robert S. Bridges, 1844-1930

Music: Johann Cruger, 1598-1662


Johann Heerman took his inspiration for "Ah, Holy Jesus" from a Latin text attributed to either Augustine (354-430) or Jean de Fecamp (c.1000-1079). The poetry was originally published in a fifteenth-century devotional book entitled Meditationes sanctorum patrum. Heerman's hymn version first appeared in his Devoti Musica Cordis, ca. 1630.

Heerman wrote during the Thirty Years War, a time when many hymn writers became introspective. Writing during this time of uncertainty and trouble, Heerman's hymn emerged from a backdrop of his own personal suffering. In the lyrics, Heerman describes the afflictions of Jesus, and admits his own part in Jesus' death.

An exquiste choral arrangement by Timothy Shaw

Ah, holy Jesus, how hast Thou offended,

That man to judge Thee hath in hate pretended?

By foes derided, by Thine own rejected,

O most afflicted.

Who was the guilty- Who brought this upon Thee?

Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone Thee.

'Twas I, Lord, Jesus, I it was denied Thee!

I crucified Thee.

For me, kind Jesus, was Thine incarnation,

Thy mortal sorrow, and Thy life's oblation;

Thy death of anguish and Thy bitter passion,

For my salvation.

Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered;

The slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered;

For our atonement, while he nothing heedeth,

God intercedeth.

Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay Thee,

I do adore Thee, and will ever pray Thee,

Think on Thy pity and Thy love unswerving,

Not my deserving.[/i]

The world is filled with examples of finger pointing and blaming. When trouble hits close to home, we sometimes try the same tactic. Whether it's a strained relationship, a mistake at work, or a church conflict, we'll often try to blame others for the problem.

When it comes to Jesus' death, however, our blame games fall apart. As the hymn, "Ah, Holy Jesus" so poignantly points out, our sin was to blame for causing Jesus death. In a heartfelt confession to Jesus, the hymn writer admits, "Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon Thee? Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone Thee."

Innocent and godly in every way, Jesus didn't deserve the brutal torture of crucifixion. Yet he suffered that horrible death anyway, because there was no other way to save us from our sin. Standing before the cross, we have no one else to blame: It was our sin that nailed the spikes into his hands.

How do we respond to that kind of love? How can we repay Jesus for taking our blame? As the hymn writer puts it: "I cannot pay Thee." And in the last verse, we're led to the only fitting response we can give-to adore Jesus and reflect on his sacrifice.