There is a strand that runs through the hymnal of the church from its beginning until today: We sing about Jesus. He is the uniting theme of our praise, for He is our head, and He shall have preeminence (Col 1:18). Continuing this tradition, we will be looking at the modern hymn “Man of Sorrows,” written by Brooke Ligertwood & Matt Crocker of Hillsong Church. Its themes deal with the earthly ministry of Christ, His atoning sacrifice on the cross, His resurrection from the dead, and our response of praise to God. As they are thematically connected, we will be looking at the verses first, and then moving on to the chorus and bridge.
Man of sorrows, Lamb of God, by His own betrayed.
The sin of man and wrath of God has been on Jesus laid.
The two titles of Christ in the first verse directly relate to His mediatory role as Savior. He was a Man of sorrows, that our sorrows might be carried (Isa 53:3-4). He was acquainted with grief that our grief might be borne. In His chastening on the cross – receiving the strokes that ought to have fallen on us – our well-being was secured (Isa 53:5). It is with a view towards this that John says, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29). For what the blood of bulls and goats could never do (Heb 10:4), He did Himself (Heb 7:27). Not temporarily covering sins, but blotting out completely the sins of all who would believe (Rom 3:24-26).
Silent as He stood accused, beaten, mocked, and scorned.
Bowing to the Father’s will, He took a crown of thorns.
Often we can move quickly to the finished work of Christ and forget what horrors He endured in the process. Never was there one so abused as He—and without cause. We see Him betrayed, abandoned, falsely tried, slandered, beaten, scourged, and made to wear a crown of thorns (Jn 19:2-3). Yet, He submits all things to the Father’s will (Mt 26:39-44), knowing that it is for this very purpose that He came into the world (Jn 12:27). Here is omnipotence restrained in love for us: that throughout all this, He remains silent, not resisting, but willingly bearing all for our sake.
Sent of heaven, God’s own Son to purchase and redeem.
And reconcile the very ones who nailed Him to that tree.
Jesus says of Himself that He came down from heaven, sent of the Father, that He would redeem and give eternal life (Jn 6:38-40). However, it was not righteous God-fearers for which He came. On the contrary, they were—to the last one—wicked, rebellious, God-haters (Rom 1:29-30; 3:10-18). So much so, in fact, that not only did they not welcome the Savior who had come, they instead demanded He be executed as a criminal (Mt 27:22-23)! Despite all this, He still came for His people, that those responsible for His death—including us—might be redeemed. This is His unfathomable love: “that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).
See the stone is rolled away, behold the empty tomb.
Hallelujah, God be praised, He’s risen from the grave.
Here now we come to the glorious truth that makes the others shine: Christ has risen from the grave! Paul makes it clear that “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless” (1 Cor 15:17). God be praised then that on the third day, when the women arrived, they found the stone rolled away, the tomb empty, and the proclamation of the angel declaring, “He has risen, just as He said” (Mt 28:6). By His rising we now have hope for eternal redemption, and confidence that since He lives, we will live also, and be transformed into the likeness of His body when He comes (Rom 6:5; Phil 3:21).
Oh, that rugged cross, my salvation,
Where Your love poured out over me.
Now my soul cries out, hallelujah,
Praise and honor unto Thee.
It is with all the proceeding truths in mind that we turn in praise to Christ, recognizing that the ground of our salvation is set wholly upon the cross, where He bled and died. Although there is a group aspect to Christ’s work—as He purchased “the church” with His blood (Acts 20:28)—there is also an intimate individual aspect to the atonement, whereby Paul can say that the Son of God “loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal 2:20). Our worship, however, is first and foremost theocentric, so we then appropriately sing, “Hallelujah!” and give all glory to God.
Now my debt is paid, it is paid in full
By the precious blood that my Jesus spilled.
Now the curse of sin has no hold on me.
Whom the Son sets free, oh is free indeed.
Here we have a fitting place to conclude our discussion of “Man of Sorrows.” At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He declared that the purpose of His work was to “proclaim release to the captives” and “freedom to prisoners” (Lk 4:18; Isa 61:1). The bridge of this song is a declaration of that freedom we have in Christ. Whereas we once were captives of sin (Rom 6:20), He has now “released us from our sins by His blood” (Rev 1:5). Where we once were prisoners of sin and its curse, in Him we now have freedom and victory over death (Rom 6:18-20). We see here that the saving work of Christ is a complete work. What He does, He does not do in part only. For those who draw near He saves to the uttermost, and those whom He sets free are free indeed (Heb 7:25; Jn 8:36). This is the reality we live in, and the hope we have for the future: that the good work He began, He will complete (Phil 1:6), and that for all eternity, it will be “to the praise of His glorious grace” (Eph 1:6)!