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German: Herzliebster Jesu

Text: Johann Heerman (1585-1647) Tune: Johann Crüger (1598-1662)

Christ Carrying his Cross. Student of Hieronymus Bosch 1500-1535?

1. Ah, holy Jesus, how hast thou offended,

That we to judge thee have in hate pretended?

By foes derided, by thine own rejected,

O most afflicted!

2. 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.

3. Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered;

The slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered.

For our atonement, while we nothing heeded,

God interceded.

4. For me, kind Jesus, was thy incarnation,

Thy mortal sorrow, and thy life's oblation;

Thy death of anguish and thy bitter passion,

For my salvation.

5. 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.

Tr. Robert Bridges 1844-1930


(a reworking of a previous blog.) When children, especially, are first told the story of Jesus, his kindness, his love for people, his miracles that healed and fed all who came to him, and then hear that he was crucified, they are shocked and dumbfounded! Why? How could this be?

This is the question of the text for today and this hymn, one of the few that really gets at the scandal of the cross. The parable Jesus tells about the wicked tenants is shockingly clear to us. It tells with great clarity exactly the story Jesus is living at the moment. He is the stone that the builder rejected, in fact killed. Each of the first four stanzas of the great hymn marvels at the paradox here. I am the guilty one, yet Christ was “offered” for me.

There are lots of people today who do not think Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was

necessary and are sure they are not guilty. This denies the holy being of God. He can't be quit of his holiness just to be nice to us, despite his being love itself. He does devise a plan. He will send his son, who can die and pay our debt to him. “I it was denied thee/I crucified thee.” In saying we did nothing wrong and do not need Jesus, we are denying the Lord Jesus. This prayer of confession from the heart of a pious man, one we have sung for centuries, should be one we pray frequently in joy that the Lord: “while we nothing heeded/… interceded, ” to save us from ourselves.

I frequently wonder what I would have done if I had been around in Jerusalem at the

time of the crucifixion. As a religious professional and professor, I am not very

confident I would have seen that Jesus was God. Maybe I would have been a leader

among those who crucified him. This song convicts me and says that even now my

sin makes me guilty. Out of love Christ died for me, a sinner. How can that be? Thus,

as the last stanza has it, all we can do is adore and think on Christ’s sacrifice for us

and give thanks. Amen!


The scandal of our faith, a cornerstone

Despised, rejected, cast off by the mason, now

Set as the fundamental mark. It alone Makes the entire building straight, allows

The builder to build higher, confident It will never fall. From it, he finds the plumb

Justifying every stone against Its angle of repose. His kingdom comes

Defying all the gravities of space, Formed on foundations invisible but strong:

The baffling mysteries of heaven’s grace. God uses what our worldly wit thinks wrong;

He contradicts our measures. His design

Fashions a new dimension, a brand new line. Matthew 21:42– 44; Psalm 118:22–23; 1 Corinthians 3:10–15 from Jesus the Harmony Fortress Press 2021


Johan Heerman’s (1585-1647) life is a study in suffering. Born in Silesia, he had

poetic gifts and was encouraged in them by friends and teachers. He almost died as a child. His first wife died in their first year of marriage. He suffered poor health his

entire life. He wrote this hymn in 1630 during his pastorate in Koben where he

served from 1611-1634. Plagues, fires, pestilence, and the Thirty Years War ravaged the area. Several times he and his family had to flee the armies pillaging the town. In 1634, he finally had to give up his work because of a continuing sinus infection that some say even spread to the bones in his skull. He died in Lissa, in what is now Poland.

With its tune by Johan Crüger, organist at St. Nikolai Church in Berlin, who set many of Gerhardt's and Herman's texts, the hymn became a Holy Thursday/Good Friday classic among Lutherans. Johan Sebastian Bach used it in his great St. Matthew Passion. It is surprising how popular it is on Youtube. It appears in many styles, from Bach to rock. Here are some versions:


Choir, congregation arrangement Craig Courtney

Choir/John Ferguson Arrangement/First Plymouth Church/viola

Classic Christian hymns

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