Ah, Holy Jesus
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.
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.
Every time I read these lyrics, I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. Unlike most of the previous hymns I’ve featured, this one focuses more on less on exactly what Christ did and more on its effect on us personally.
It begins by painting a picture of Christ’s suffering not in terms of the physical aspects of it or even His relationship with God, but in terms of the contempt and rejection of people. I think the author intended this as a way of setting up the later verses; ultimately, Christ’s death was caused by sin, which is contempt and rejection of God. Focusing on the attitude of those who crucified Christ emphasizes the fact that humans are responsible for it.
But the hymn doesn’t end with blaming humans in general. It moves to a more personal confession. Since Jesus died for sin, any sin was sufficient to cause His death, including our own. Another way of putting this is that the essence of sin is desiring to control our own lives rather than have God control them. And, though we may not want to admit it, sinful people would choose to kill God rather than give up this control. In the Crucifixion, that is exactly what we did.
The third verse moves to talk about Christ’s work as a response to our sinful desires and the love He showed, which contrasts sharply with our hatred of Him. The final verse brings all of it together, leading us to the only appropriate response, worship and devotion to Christ. It also points out that our only hope is to be judged on the basis of God’s love, not on what we deserve.