Posted by: rcottrill | March 30, 2012

Ask Ye What Great Thing I Know

Words: Johann Christoph Schwedler (b. Dec. 21, 1672; d. Jan. 12, 1730)
Music: Hendon, by Henri Abraham César Malan (b. July 7, 1787; May 18, 1864)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Schwedler’s hymn was translated into English by Benjamin Kennedy in 1863. The original had six four-line stanzas, with a one-line refrain, Jesu der Gekreuzigte (Jesus the Crucified). The tune Hendon is also used commonly with the hymn Take My Life and Let It Be.

Many hymn books I’ve seen do not include this fine hymn at all. Those that do seem to use CH-1, 4, 5, and 6, though one includes CH-2. The entire hymn is worth reading and using. You might also try singing the song antiphonally, with part of the congregation singing the first four lines, and another singing the final line.

Considering this hymn, I’m reminded of a scene in the excellent 1953 motion picture Martin Luther, which gives a carefully researched depiction of the great reformer’s life. As a young priest, he had begun to question some of the beliefs and practices of the Church of Rome. When confronted by his superior, and asked with what he would replace all the rituals and relics of the church, he replies simply, “Christ.”

Johann Schwedler’s hymn drew its inspiration from two Bible texts in particular. “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (I Cor. 2:2). And, “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14). Though there is much more in the Bible than that–important doctrines to be studied, and truths to be applied–the Person and work of Christ is central to all.

CH-1) Ask ye what great thing I know,
That delights and stirs me so?
What the high reward I win?
Whose the name I glory in?
Jesus Christ, the Crucified.

CH-2) What is faith’s foundation strong?
What awakes my heart to song?
He who bore my sinful load,
Purchased for me peace with God,
Jesus Christ, the Crucified.

It was the Lord Jesus Christ Himself who taught that the pages of the Word of God centred on Him. “These are they which testify of Me” (Jn. 5:39). Teaching His followers, after His resurrection, “He opened their understanding that they might comprehend the Scriptures” (Lk. 24:45). And Jesus declared that “all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me” (vs. 44). “Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (vs. 27; cf. Jn. 5:39). “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10), meaning the witness to Christ and about Christ inspires and infuses all of it.

In pre-incarnate appearances, in symbol, and in prophecy, Christ is found on every page of the Old Testament and, in narrative, doctrinal instruction, and prophecy, He saturates the pages of the New Testament. In fact, more than simply the words printed in red in some of our Bibles are His. As the second Person of the Godhead, it is legitimate to think of all the Bible not only as inspired by the Holy Spirit (II Tim. 3:16) but as “the Word of Christ” (cf. Col. 3:16; I Pet. 1:10-11).

CH-6) This is that great thing I know;
This delights and stirs me so;
Faith in Him who died to save,
Him who triumphed over the grave:
Jesus Christ, the Crucified.

1) How should the centrality of Christ affect the preaching in our churches (and not just when the passage is found in the four Gospels)?

2) How should the centrality of Christ affect our daily lives?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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