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HYMN FOR LENT 5 O Love Divine, what hast thou done?

Updated: Mar 15

Text: Charles Wesley. (1707-1788) Tune: Joseph Barnby (1838-1896)

Christ Carrying his Cross Hieronymous Bosch

1 O Love divine, what hast thou done?

Th' immortal God hath dy'd for me,

The Father's co-eternal Son

Bore all my sins upon the Tree:

Th' immortal God for me hath dy'd,

My Lord, my Love, is crucify'd.

2 Behold Him all ye that pass by,

The bleeding Prince of Life and Peace;

Come, see, ye Worms, your Maker die,

And say was ever Love like his;

Come feel with me his Blood apply'd,

My Lord my Love, is crucify'd.

3 Is crucify'd for me and you,

To bring us Rebels back to God;

Believe, believe the Record true,

We are all bought with Jesu's Blood;

Pardon and Life flew from his side,

My Lord, my Love is crucify'd.

4 Then let us sit beneath his Cross,

And gladly catch the healing stream;

All Things for him account but Loss,

And give up all our Hearts to him:

Of nothing speak, or think beside,

But Jesus and him crucify'd.


In the Gospel lesson for the fifth Sunday in Lent, there are many things to consider. Jesus has just entered Jerusalem on a donkey. Then some ask to see Jesus in a memorable phrase, "Sir, we would see Jesus." God speaks from heaven, something like during the Transfiguration. Then Jesus talks the judgment of the world coming and says, “When I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself.” This tells those who are listening carefully that he is going to be crucified. His listeners wonder who he is? Who is this Son of Man?” Jesus answers with an illustration about the grain of wheat having to die before it can bear fruit. Jesus ends by talking about himself as the light. There are enough themes here for thousands of sermons. It is like all of the topics for a sermon on Jesus' last days simply collide in this text.


The hymn might focus our attention on a theme--on the one lifted up, the crucified. Although it is not well known in my circles, it is among Wesley’s most successful, but lesser known hymns. The tone of the poem is arresting. The question at the beginning of the text is from the voice of a naïve observer. One almost hears the voice of a mother looking at a mess her child has created and asks in sorrow, What have you done?

And then the second stanza, which is now left out because of the Worm image, I am sure. People today resist the idea that they are wretches or sinners, or worms. It is called Worm theology, usually with a scornful laugh. But maybe the worm theology is the point. God dies for wretches and worms!


The wonder of what God has done takes over the hymn. It says more about God, maybe, than us. That God, "the bleeding Prince of Life and Peace" would die for one of us, no better than a worm, simply overwhelms the singer. Is there somewhere lurking in the rejection of this image the notion that Jesus would die for some but not others, those who are a little better than “worms.” I hope not.


While we watch today with sorrow what is happening on the way to the cross, does it ever strike us that Jesus is dying for sinners? Not just for sort of nice people who would not crucify him?


The painting by Bosch tells it about as well as anything I can say. The people following along with Jesus who is carrying his cross look pretty wretched to me. Except, maybe, for Veronica on the lower left side. She looks bemused, like she doesn't get it either. They are not just the people who are crucifying Christ. They are the ones he is dying for! We may think ourselves superior to that lot, but we are not. On the outside, we might look more respectable than they do, but he sees our hearts. I imagine that is not a pretty sight. We should think only of how we need his sacrifice. If we don't think we are sinners, why even follow along? He is dying for us, sinners all.


Thus we can sing with Wesley after acknowledging that he is doing this to bring us “rebels back to God.” And then we can "sit under the cross And gladly catch the healing stream; All Things for him account but Loss,/And give up all our Hearts to him:/Of nothing speak, or think beside,/But Jesus and him crucify'd."



Charles Wesley Preaching

The hymn, published in 1742, was one of three hymns by Wesley on the theme, “Desiring to Love.” It became popular when it was used in other collections like Toplady’s book Psalms and Hymns 1776 and then the Wesleyan Hymn Book of 1780. Wesley wrote over six thousand hymns that brought many to faith in Jesus. Although he never left the Anglican church, he worked closely with his brother John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, to bring the Gospel to people around the world. It has had several tunes. The tune most often associated with the hymn is by Joseph Barney, the great Victorian musician, who composed many tunes people loved to sing.


Baylor’s Mens Chorus


Waite Park Church/This has the text


Cape Town Ensemble


Peter Duckworth/Piano version




 NB: Here is the link to my latest book. It would help me a lot if more than 50 were pre-sold by March 15 at a lower price. Thank you!





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