This past Sunday I introduced the lyrics of an old hymn to our congregation, as part of a message from John 18.1-27 about Peter’s denial of Jesus. The point I was making is that while we are easily “ashamed” of Jesus, whether conscious of it or not, our relationship with Jesus – and with God through Christ – does not rest upon our diligence, but rather upon God’s grace and Jesus’ sacrifice of himself on our behalf. The point from the passage is that while Peter was struggling, and denying Jesus; three times declaring “I am not” when asked if he was a Jesus Follower, in the same scene Jesus was being interrogated, and beaten, as part of his final steps on journey to the Cross. It is on that Cross that Jesus died to redeem those who had sinned against him, like Peter – and like me.
The old hymn lyrics were written in 1765 by a British man named Joseph Griggs. The song in the video is a tune composed and performed by Mo Leverett, after Leverett had read the lyrics authored by Griggs.
The gist of the song reveals the foolishness of being “ashamed” of Jesus – which is to be ashamed of or embarrassed by the gospel. Griggs begins with a question in the first stanza:
Jesus, and shall it ever be, A mortal man ashamed of Thee? Ashamed of Thee whom angels praise, Whose glories shine through endless days!
Griggs then works through a few reasons why it is foolish to be ashamed of Jesus:
Ashamed of Jesus! sooner far Let evening blush to own a star: He sheds the beams of light Divine O’er this be-night-ed soul of mine.
Ashamed of Jesus! just as soon Let mid-night be ashamed of noon: ‘Tis mid-night with my soul till He, Bright Morning Star, bid darkness flee.
Ashamed of Jesus, that dear Friend On whom my hopes of heaven depend! No; when I blush, be this my shame, That I no more revere His Name.
Griggs, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, admits that maybe there is a circumstance when the gospel, and Jesus, might be dismissed:
Ashamed of Jesus! yes, I may When I’ve no guilt to wash away; No tear to wipe, no good to crave, No fears to quell, no soul to save.
The irony, none of of us ever is in the circumstance where we are not in need of the grace of Jesus.
The beauty of the song, for me, comes in the last line, when we are reminded that despite our spiritual frailty, Jesus is never ashamed of those who belong to him:
Til then – nor is my boasting vain – Til then I boast a Savior slain; And O may this my glory be, That Christ is not ashamed of me!