Was it for crimes that I have done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!
Well might the sun in darkenss hide
And shut its glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker, died
For man the creature’s sin.
Thus might I hide my blushing face
While His dear cross appears;
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt mine eyes to tears.
But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give myself away –
‘Tis all that I can do!
Words by Isaac Watts, 1707
Music by Hugh Wilson, 1800
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said,“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.
The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”
There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
Luke 23:33 – 49
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
Ephesians 2:8 – 9
Have you ever stopped to consider all the things that have been done directly and indirectly for you. Things that have made you who you are. Consider the sacrifices that have been made. Perhaps your parents worked hours of over time to ensure you had food on your table and clothes to wear. There are the men and women who have given their very lives to defend the people of our nation. So much we have is because of the sacrifices of others. But how often do you stop to consider the magnitude of the greatest sacrifice ever given on your behalf. This is the message found in the lines of Isaac Watts, “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed?”
The hymn begins with the words, “Alas! and did my Savior bleed? And did my Sov’reign die?” What profound questions? My Savior, the one who came to forgive my sins, the one who came to give me new life, shed His blood for me. But He is not simply my Savior, He is my Sovereign. This is God Himself who died. He gave up His very life for me.
The hymn continues, “Would He devote that sacred head For such a worm as I?” Why would the God of all creation willingly give up his life for me? I am nothing. Some updated versions of the hymn read, “for a sinner such as I” but I think that Watts so recognized our lowly state when compared with a righteous and Holy God, that he wrote, “For such a worm as I.” A worm, the lowliest of creatures. A creature that lives below the ground. A creature that when it comes above the ground is squashed beneath our feet. This is us. The statement is not that we are worthless, but that when compared with God, we are nothing and yet God loved us so much that He gave His very life for us. A message that Paul shares with us in Roman 5:8 where we read “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Why would God do this? Watts continues his pondering by saying, “Was it for crimes that I have done He groaned upon the tree?” It was my actions that put Him there. It was to save me from the punishment I deserved that He chose to take my place. Romans 4:25 tells us, “He was delivered over to death for our sins . . .” That he would willingly give His life in my place is beyond words. Watts attempts to cover this act when he wrote, “Amazing pity! Grace unknown! And love beyond degree!”
Watts continues “Well might the sun in darkness hide And shut its glories in, When Christ, the mighty Maker, died
For man the creature’s sin.” His words draw us back to that Friday as Christ died on the cross. In Luke 23 we read, “It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last.”
When we stop to consider what Christ has done. When we begin to fully comprehend the magnitude of His sacrifice we are left speechless. Watts puts it this way, “Thus might I hide my blushing face While His dear cross appears; Dissolve my heart in thankfulness, And melt mine eyes to tears.” When I stop to consider His gift to me I am driven to my knees with praise and I am driven to tears with gratitude.
But is this enough? It still seems so shallow. It seems my response can not meet the gift. The final verse of the hymn reads “But drops of grief can ne’er repay The debt of love I owe.” The debt that has been paid, I could never repay. He brought me from death to life. In Him I will know eternity in His presence. And yet I need not give anything, for that is the nature of the gift. It is free. We are reminded of this in Ephesians 2:8 – 9 which reads, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
So I respond to His gift. I respond to His love. I respond to His sacrifice with these words, “Here, Lord, I give myself away – ‘Tis all that I can do!”
Read more about “Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed?”
This is the more commonly known version with the refrain “At The Cross, At The Cross . . .” Music and refrain by Ralph Hudson, 1885.