For a while now I’ve thought about doing a special discipleship group or evening presentation about some of the songs we sing and what they teach us about God, the church, and the gospel. I’ve written once or twice about what songs communicate, and I’d like to look at another one that many of us have either heard on the radio or sung in church: Jesus Messiah by Chris Tomlin.
This verse is made up of just a few short statements, each of which tells a fundamental truth of the gospel. The words themselves are drawn from 2 Corinthians 5:21,
|2 Corinthians 5:21
|For our sake
|He became sin
|he made him to be sin
|Who knew no sin
|who knew no sin,
|That we might become His righteousness
|so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
|He humbled himself and carried the cross
From the very first lines, this song begins with near repetition of Scripture, drawing our hearts and minds back to the Word of God, the very foundation of our understanding of God and salvation.
The last line of this verse is meant as a clarifier for those singing. The passage, 2 Corinthians 5:21, was not written in a vacuum, so what Paul says can easily be understood from the context. But this song adds a line about Christ humbling himself and carrying the cross (cf. Phil. 2:5-11). That is how Christ became sin. That is what He did “that we might become His righteousness.
The chorus itself is straightforward praise and worship of Jesus, extolling many of the names and phrases used in Scripture to describe Him a His mission:
Jesus Messiah (i.e. Jesus Christ)
Name above all names (Phil. 2:9)
Blessed Redeemer (Gal. 3:13)
Emmanuel (Matt. 1:23)
The rescue for sinners/The ransom from Heaven (Mark 10:45)
Lord of all (Rom. 10:12)
The chorus here is not disconnected to the rest of the song. Instead, it is a natural outflow of praise based on the truth communicated in the verses. Although songs do not have to do this to be useful to the church, I appreciate that this one specifically links praise to God with God’s action in history. There is a reason for it. And as we meditate on the reason, we are moved even more so to praise.
The second verse looks at the symbolic picture of the truth stated in verse one as displayed in the Lord’s Supper. Echoes of the night when Jesus was betrayed are manifest: The bread represents His body, broken for us. The wine represents his blood, poured out for us. This Christ did for love. It was not an afterthought of God or a “bad situation turned for good,” but rather a desperately wicked and hopeless moment planned by God for love. The earth shook because of what happened and the veil that represented the separation between God and man was rent in two, declaring peace and reconciliation.
Towards the end of the song comes a confession of our dependence on God. All our hope is in Him, in the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf. It repeats the cry of believers past, present, and future, from the words of the Apostles to the elegant hymn we grew up singing, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”
As an overflow of our knowledge of this truth, and our praise to God, we express our desire to glorify Him and profess that He is the light of the world. What better way to glorify Him and reflect the truth that He is the light of the world than by proclaiming the truth that “He became sin who knew no sin that we might become His righteousness.”