Posted by: rcottrill | October 27, 2014

We Would See Jesus [Park]

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Words: John Edgar Park (b. Mar. 7, 1879; d. Mar. 4, 1956)
Music: Cushman, by Herbert Barclay Turner (b. July 17, 1852; d. May 1, 1927)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This hymn uses the same four opening words as that of Anna Warner: “We would see Jesus, for the shadows lengthen,” but Park’s is an entirely different hymn. Park’s hymn was published in 1913, Warner’s sixty years earlier. And while the later hymn has neither the poetic quality or the devotional depth of Miss Warner’s work, it’s a pretty song about the earthly life and ministry of Christ. I do, however, have some concerns about it. You’ll have to decide whether they are sufficient to keep you from using the song.

As to the tune that has traditionally been used with the hymn (Cushman) it has been criticized as below standard by a number of people. Carlton Young, in the Companion to the United Methodist Hymnal, calls it “tedious and clichéd” (p. 683). One hymnal I checked uses instead the tune Henley, by Lowell Mason. (See Dear God, Our Father in the Cyber Hymnal.)

T he opening phrase, taken from John’s Gospel, comes from the older English of the King James Version:

“There were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: the same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus [i.e. we wish to see Jesus]” (Jn. 12:20-21).

Dr. Park said his hymn was written “as a hymn for youth and promise and sunshine.” Later he added that it was:

Written in 1913 in connection with two books I had published at that time on the Sermon on the Mount. This hymn was an attempt to capture the youthful enthusiasm for Jesus, as contrasted with the more middle-aged nostalgia usually represented in hymns” (Companion to Baptist Hymnal, p. 236).

The opening stanza perpetuates a common idea that the Bethlehem star was shining above the stable. Nowhere in Scripture is that stated; nowhere do we read of the shepherds viewing the star. If the wise men traveled from Persia following the star, they did not arrive until several weeks, or even months, after Jesus was born. By that time, He was no longer a newborn infant lying in a manger, but was found, to be a “young Child” in a “house,” with Mary (Matt. 2:11).

CH-1) We would see Jesus; lo! His star is shining
Above the stable while the angels sing;
There in a manger on the hay reclining;
Haste, let us lay our gifts before the King.

CH-2 gives us a picture of the boy Jesus growing up. There is a speculative element to what Park tells us, though it doesn’t depart too far from what is possible. As “the carpenter’s Son” (Matt. 13:55), it would be traditional for the young Jesus to learn the trade of His adopted father, Joseph. But we have only the one glimpse of Him in boyhood, in the temple, when He was twelve years old (Lk. 2:41-50). Beyond that there is a basic statement:

“Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men” (Lk. 2:51-52).

CH-2) We would see Jesus, Mary’s Son most holy,
Light of the village life from day to day;
Shining revealed through every task most lowly,
The Christ of God, the life, the truth, the way.

I suppose I understand what Park means in the third line of CH-3, about the preaching of “birds and flowers and sky,” but I think the line could have been better employed. His reference to the Lord healing “before the sun was set” (CH-4), seems to be a reference to Mark 1:32, except that Mark pointedly says the ministry of healing happened “when the sun had set.” It was the Sabbath Day (vs. 21), and pious Jews would have waited for the day to end at sunset to bear their sick and infirm to Jesus.

Note: A later editor changed the fourth line of CH-4 to what you will see in the Cyber Hymnal. The original said, “Of God and man in loving service met.” Either is fine. The latter implies the incarnation, though a little less strongly.

CH-4) We would see Jesus, in His work of healing,
At eventide before the sun was set;
Divine and human, in His deep revealing
Of God made flesh, in loving service met.

The final stanza is a call to commitment, and it is a lovely gem. (The word “meaner” is used in the sense of less worthy.)

CH-5) We would see Jesus, in the early morning,
Still as of old He calleth, “Follow Me!”
Let us arise, all meaner service scorning;
Lord, we are Thine, we give ourselves to Thee.

1) Are the concerns mentioned sufficient that you would not use this hymn?

2) What other hymns do you know about the earthly life and ministry of Jesus, before He went to the cross?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. If verse four is altered to read ‘Of God made flesh, in loving service met’, what is met? In the original it is ‘God and man’ that are ‘met’.

    • Not sure your source of “the original.” The song was first published in 1913, and has a copy from 1919, exactly as I have it.

      As to the meaning of the line, “…His deep revealing / Of God made flesh, in loving service met,” the poet is saying that, in Christ’s loving ministry of healing, both His deity and humanity are blended. As man He experienced our humanity (apart from sin) and could identify with us in our trials (Heb. 4:15). As the Son of God, He had power to do something about human suffering.


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