Katharine A. M. Kelly, 1869-1942
Oh, make me understand it,
Help me to take it in,
What it meant to Thee, the Holy One,
To bear away my sin.
Was it the nails, O Saviour,
That bound Thee to the tree?
Nay, ’twas Thine everlasting love,
Thy love for me, for me.
Oh, wonder of all wonders,
That thro’ Thy death for me,
My open sins, my secret sins,
Can all forgiven be.
Then melt my heart, O Saviour,
Bend me, yea, break me down,
Until I own Thee Conqueror,
And Lord and Sov’reign crown.
There is a verse in this lovely hymn that never leaves me. Öh make me understand it, help me to take it in, what it meant to thee the holy one to bear away my sin”. Apparently this is also the chorus of the hymn written by Katharine A. M. Kelly, 1869-1942. I have tried to research about this wonderful woman who wrote this hymn but have not come across anything apart from her name appended to the hymn.
Of the several wonders of pronouncements in the Bible, there is one plea that just flows from my heart. Oh make me understand it, what it meant to you Lord, to take away my sin. We need dearly friends to understand what it meant to Jesus to take away our sins.
A few comments about the Lyrics
Give me a sight, O Saviour – Spiritual things cannot be understood by human mind. We need the Spirit of God to illuminate our minds to see God’s will. I seem to feel with Katherine that if only Lord you would grant me an opportunity to have my mind open to understand the love of God for me. I can only echo the words of Hess when he said -Believers who are Spirit-filled Are unaware that God may be Revealing through their Christlike ways A glimpse of His reality.
The hymn writer asks the question – Was it the nails, O saviour, that bound you to the tree? It was not simply nails, though He was nailed to the cross. The Son of God, with power to raise the dead, heal the sick, make the blind to see, still the storm-tossed sea, surely had power to step down from a cross, even though He was nailed to it.
It was not human weakness which bound Him to the cross, for He said regarding His life, “No man takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down; I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” John 10 :18.
It was not because He had no friends that He stayed on the cross. In the garden of Gethsemane, when Peter drew his sword and began to battle in defence of the Master, Jesus said, “Thinkest thou not that I cannot now say to my Father, and He shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” The twelve legions of angels were still available when Jesus was on the cross.
What then is the answer to the question, what held Jesus to the cross? Here is the answer.
I. HIS LOVE FOR US HELD HIM TO THE CROSS.
There are three things I would like to say about the love of Christ.
First, His love was unusual. It is an ordinary, everyday thing for us to love those who love us, but Jesus loved those who hated Him. Jesus loved His enemies, and even on the cross, He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The love of Christ was unusual, and this is the love that He beseeches us to have for our fellowman.
Secondly, His love was unending. “Now, before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.”
Sometimes even the love of a mother for her child fails. Occasionally even a father may turn against his own son, but the love of Jesus never fails. It continued to the cross—beyond the cross, and abounds unto us today. His love bound Him to the cruel tree.
Thirdly, His love was unselfish. Man had nothing to give to Jesus that He did not have already. All things belong to Him. The silver and the gold, the cattle upon a thousand hills, and yet, the Saviour died in our behalf.
When Jesus died upon the cross, bound by the divine love for poor, lost sinful mankind, His love was unselfish.
II. HIS SUBMISSION TO GOD’s WILL HELD HIM TO THE CROSS.
The bitter, angry mob, especially the religious leaders told Him to come down from the cross if He were the Son of God. One of the malefactors railed on Him, saying, “If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.”
In the common parlance of today, they were saying, “If you are not a liar and a hypocrite, come down from the cross. If you are such a big person, if you are what you claim to be, then show us by coming down from the cross.” But Jesus could not come down, for His submission to God’s will bound Him to the rugged cross.
Let me pause here to make this plea. May our lives be so submissive to the will of God that we will be unable to do anything but say, “Thy will be done.” May our submission to His holy will bind us to separated living, to soul-winning, to consecrated service, to liberal giving, to earnest praying. May our submission to the Father’s will bind us to do His divine purpose and plan for our lives.
Jesus said, “Lo, I come to do thy will.” It was the will of God that He should die for sinful mankind. It was the will of God that He should enter into the holy of holies, and there make one sacrifice for sin forever. It was the Father’s will that He should pour out His blood upon Calvary’s hill. Jesus was submissive to the will of God.
III. OUR SINS HELD HIM TO THE CROSS.
The trail of sin from the Garden of Eden to the present time is a bloody and tragic one. Sin separates men from God, just as it drove the first pair from the garden.
Sin brings shame. Adam and Eve sought to hide from God. Sinners are still ashamed, and try to hide their sins – therefore, men love darkness rather than light.
Sin brings sorrow. See it for yourself. The life of sin will end in sorrow. The home of sin will end in sorrow. Sin brings suffering. All of the world’s suffering came about because of sin. Mental anguish, physical suffering, all come from sin. Let us remember it was our sins which nailed Him and held Him to the cross.”
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed”.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way: and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53 :5,6
(a) He bore our sins to satisfy the law of God. God’s law says, “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” “The wages of sin is death.” Because of our sins, we deserve the penalty of death and Hell, but Christ came and died in our place. He satisfied the law of God. God accepted His death as payment for our sins.
“Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
Who his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree that we being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness, by whose stripes ye were healed.”
(b) He took our sins that He might bear them away from us. John announced the ministry of Jesus by saying, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” Just as the priest in Leviticus could lay his hands upon the head of a live goat and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, and send him away into the wilderness, so did Jesus bear our sins that He might bear them away from us.
The picture is also given in the Passover scene of the Lamb slain, and the blood put upon the door posts. Jesus is our sacrificial Lamb. His blood covers our sins, and releases us from the penalty of hell. John writes, “And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sin, and in him is no sin.” I John 3 :5.
(c) He bore our sins in His own body on the tree that He might bring us unto God. The redemptive work of Jesus is to take out of this world a people for His name. The whole world will not be saved, but some will be saved, and with them God is going to abide forever.
Yes, your sins and mine bound Him to the cross. Christ was fully conscious that only His death could satisfy the law of God, bear away our sins, and bring us unto the Heavenly Father. Therefore, though men scoffed at Him and accused Him of lying and hypocrisy, He stayed on the cross, bound by our sins, to the tree.
There is but one way open to the fair minded person who realizes that his sins nailed Jesus to the cross, and that is to receive Jesus as Saviour. He died that you might live. You cannot live without Him.
A big, strong and muscular athlete was once asked why the word “mother” was so sacred to him. In reply, he told how, when he was born, the doctor told his father that either the mother or the child must die. The doctor said, “Decide quickly, so that I can go to work.” The young athlete said, “My mother overheard what the doctor said, and putting her arms around my father, said to him, ‘I will die. Let my baby live.’ My mother passed away. She gave her life for me, but her supreme sacrifice has enabled my whole being, and has endeared all mothers to me. Only Christ, my Saviour, could have done more.
‘I’ll go to Jesus, though my sin, like mountains round me close, I know His courts, I’ll enter in, whatever may oppose;
Prostrate I’ll lie before His throne, and there my guilt confess, I’ll tell Him I’m a wretch undone, without His sovereign grace.
I can but perish if I go — I am resolved to try, For if I stay away, I know I must forever die.”