Posted by: rcottrill | November 26, 2014

What Will You Do with Jesus?

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Words: Albert Benjamin Simpson (b. Dec. 15, 1843; d. Oct. 29, 1919)
Music: Mary L. Stocks (no further information)

Wordwise Hymns (Albert Simpson)
The Cyber Hymnal (none)

Note: This thoughtful hymn was published in 1891. (Surprisingly, does not have it.) It seems to be little known in some circles, though a number of hymnals from the latter half of the twentieth century and beyond include it (e.g. Favorite Hymns of Praise (1967), Great Hymns of the Faith (1968), The New Church Hymnal (1976),  Praise–Our Songs and Hymns (1979), Living Hymns (2009), and Rejoice Hymns (2011), to name a few). As expected, it’s found in Hymns of the Christian Life (1962), the Christian and Missionary Alliance hymn book, since it was written by founder, Albert Simpson.

There is a brief biographical note on Pastor Simpson in the Wordwise Hymns link, but an extensive one on the Cyber Hymnal (over 1700 words), along with a list of more than two dozen of his hymns. Several of these have become popular beyond his own denomination.

There are a number of classic paintings depicting the time when the Lord Jesus stood before Pilate, after His arrest in Gethsemane. One of them, created in 1871 by Antonio Ciseri, pictures Jesus and Pilate standing on a balcony, looking over a parapet at the assembled multitude below. Christ, with a crown of thorns on His head, gazes out upon them. And Pilate, though looking at the crowd, has his hand extended in the Lord’s direction, as if speaking the words in John 19:5, “Behold the Man!”

Pontius Pilatus served as prefect of Judea, by the appointment of the Roman government, for ten years (AD 26-36). It was a difficult balancing act, to represent the iron fist of Rome, yet accede to the Jewish culture sufficiently to keep the peace. When the Jewish Sanhedrin brought Jesus before him, Pilate was faced with a most unwelcome dilemma.

If Christ was a revolutionary who threatened to lead a military uprising against his government, that was one thing. But everything he had heard suggested that the Lord was a teacher whose concern was more with the moral and spiritual state of the people. In an interview, Pilate asked pointedly, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (Jn. 18:33), and the Lord answered that He was indeed a king (vs. 37), but He said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (vs. 36).

The latter statement has sometimes been misunderstood. Christ was not saying that His kingdom had nothing to do with people on earth. More precisely, His statement means, “My kingship is not of human origin, my authority doesn’t arise from military might, nor is it based on some earthly political system.” And Pilate concluded that Jesus was no threat to Rome, that He was innocent of any wrongdoing, and that the charges against Him were bogus.

Pilate told the Jews, “I find no fault with Him at all” (vs. 38), and he hoped to release Jesus. Thinking perhaps a beating would satisfy the crowd, he submitted Him to the cruel abuse of some Roman soldiers (Jn. 19:1-3), then brought Him once more before the people, in the scene described above. “Behold the Man….What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” (Jn. 19:5; Matt. 27:22). But the response was swift and definite, “Let Him be crucified!”

And like many politicians since, Pilate ignored what he knew to be right, and what his conscience was telling him, bowing to the will of the crowd. Better one unjust death than the political unrest of all Judea. At least, that’s what he thought. In an attempt to evade any responsibility, Pilate symbolically washed his hands, proclaiming, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person,” then sent Christ off to be executed (Matt. 27:24, 26).

But, of course, our duty to do what’s right can’t be so easily shrugged off. And the question of dithering Pilate echoes down the centuries since. “What shall I do with Jesus?” Albert Benjamin Simpson produced a penetrating song based on that question.

1) Jesus is standing in Pilate’s hall,
Friendless, forsaken, betrayed by all;
Hearken! what meaneth the sudden call?
What will you do with Jesus?

What will you do with Jesus?
Neutral you cannot be;
Some day your heart will be asking,
“What will He do with me?”

Then the author brings Pilate’s question up to date. We today can be false or faithful to Christ (CH-2). We can try to evade the issue, or choose Him as our Saviour (CH-3). We can deny Him and sit among the Christ rejecters–or not (CH4). The final stanza expresses faith’s commitment.

CH-2) Jesus is standing on trial still,
You can be false to Him if you will,
You can be faithful through good or ill:
What will you do with Jesus?

CH-5) “Jesus, I give Thee my heart today!
Jesus, I’ll follow Thee all the way,
Gladly obeying Thee!” will you say:
“This I will do with Jesus!”

1) What are some things that motivate people to reject Christ?

2) What are some reasons people are drawn to Christ and put their faith in Him?

Wordwise Hymns (Albert Simpson)
The Cyber Hymnal (none)


  1. What a blessing to attach spiritual and biblical truth to the great hymns of the faith. All churches should teach hymn history.

    • Amen to that! Thanks for the comment.


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