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HYMN 348 He Walked the Tearful Highway

Norwegian: Han gikk den tunge veien

Swedish: Han gick den svåra vägen

Text: Britt G. Hallqvist (1914-1997). Tune: Egil Hovland (1926-2013)

Christ carrying his cross. Titian 1565

1. He walked the tearful highway

Up to Jerusalem.

He went with his disciples

Who would betray him very soon

He did it all for them, He did it all for them.

2. He walked the tearful highway

Up to Jerusalem.

He would be cruelly tortured

And made to wear a crown of thorns

He suffered there for them, He suffered there for them.

3. He walked the tearful highway

He bore his heavy cross.

He cried, “My God, forgive them!”

And then he died on Golgatha.

He did it all for us, He did it all for us.

Tr. Gracia Grindal


Way to Calvary, Andrea di Bartolo ca. 1400

This is among the more well-known and loved of the many hymns Hallqvist and Hovland did together. Its voice is of some interest. At first we hear someone describing the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem—almost like a continuation of the hymn of a few days ago, “Come, Let us go up to Jerusalem”—but without being part of it. It is only in the last stanza that the singers become part of the scene and admit that he did it all for us.

That is always key. As long as one is viewing this scene from afar and somewhat objectively, it seems awful, but unconcerning. It is only when we hear that he did it all for us that we get it. We are involved in this.

Christ bearing his cross Sebastiano del Piombo 1513-1514

I think that is why, frequently, scholars of Scripture and the faith, can suffer a kind of professional distance from the meaning of the Gospel in their lives. From the very beginning the priestly classes, all the way back to Aaron, and Eli, become used to handling holy things and can become calloused to it. They can harden their hearts against the gospel and begin to lose their faith.

We see this often in the lives of spiritual leaders who have fallen. While their words may have brought life to thousands, through the work of the Spirit, they have done things that do not redound to their credit or what they are preaching. That does not make what they were preaching wrong. God has used sinners to get his work done since Eve. We are all sinners, most less dramatic than the great sinners, but if God had had to wait for perfect sinless people to get his work done, we would be without the Gospel.

At the same time, those involved with training up people to be ministers know that it is possible for the witness of a pastor or preacher to be so execrable that they must be removed from their office.

While most servants of the word remain faithful and deeply aware that Christ had to suffer and die for them, it can happen that some few just go dead to it. This is why remaining deep in the word and in prayer is fundamental to all of us.

The prayers during Advent that our hearts be stirred up or quickened should be something we pray all year long. My late colleague, Marc Kolden, who had a most tender heart, would come into my office about that time of the year and talk with me about how wonderful it was to pray that our hearts be quickened. I agreed with him, but sometimes feared his heart was too tender. Mine, however, needed quickening. It was a good and kind act of ministry on his part to remind me to pray those prayers again. Quicken our hearts, Lord Jesus, so we remember it was for us, for me, that all of your passion took place. Thanks be to God!


Egil Hovland

Hallqvist and Hovland began collaborating on hymns in the early 1970s as the work on contemporary hymnals in both Sweden and Norway were being proposed and planned for. This appeared in 1975 in a collection called Descant. Hallqvist, whose writings included poetry, dramas, bible plays and translations into Swedish of Shakespeare and Goethe, understood how the voice of a poem worked on the singer. This does so in a quiet way, but may have the shock of recognition in it for those who need to hear it was for them.


Swede Finn version with signing Dag-Ulrik Almqvist och Anna Maria Böckerman

interesting explanation of hymn

Norwegian Opsal School choir

For Children/Children's choir

Next month, April 6, my book of sonnets, Jesus The Harmony, will be released by Augsburg Fortress. One can pre-order it on Amazon now.

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