Ah, Holy Jesus, How Have You Offended

Full Text

1 Ah, holy Jesus,
how have you offended,
that mortal judgment
has on you descended?
By foes derided,
by your own rejected,
O most afflicted!

2 Who was the guilty?
Who brought this upon you?
It is my treason,
Lord, that has undone you.
'Twas I, Lord Jesus,
I it was denied you;
I crucified you.

3 For me, dear Jesus,
was your incarnation,
your mortal sorrow,
and your life's oblation;
your death of anguish
and your bitter passion,
for my salvation.

4 Therefore, dear Jesus,
since I cannot pay you,
I do adore you and will ever pray you,
think on your pity
and your love unswerving,
not my deserving.

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Scripture References

Thematically related:

Further Reflections on Scripture References

Using imagery from Isaiah 53 as well as from other Bible passages, the text sets forth the Christian doctrine of Christ's atonement: Christ died for the sin of the world in a substitu­tionary death on the cross. The most striking aspect of the text is its personalization: it was for my sin that Christ died! Thus a generic doctrine has become a deeply personal confession and profound meditation. 


Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

This song reflects the narrative of the suffering and death of Christ on Calvary, events whose significance and purpose is deepened by the confessions of the church. Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Days 15-16, Questions and Answers 37-44 explain the significance of each step of his suffering. Question and Answer 40 testifies that Christ had to suffer death “because God’s justice and truth require it; nothing else could pay for our sins except the death of the son of God.”

The Belgic Confession, Article 20 professes that “God made known his justice toward his Son…poured out his goodness and mercy on us…giving to us his Son to die, by a most perfect love, and raising him to life for our justification, in order that by him we might have immortality and eternal life.”
Consider also the testimony of Belgic Confession, Article 21: “He endured all this for the forgiveness of our sins.”


Ah, Holy Jesus, How Have You Offended

Call to Worship

Who has believed what we have heard?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we account him stricken,
struck down by God and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
—from Isaiah 53:1, 4-5, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Today we remember Jesus was crucified.
He was pierced for our transgressions.
He suffered and died for our iniquities.
We remember the sacrifice of our Lord with gratitude
because his death gives us life and brings redemption to the world.
Let us worship our Savior.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two


Optional reading (Rom. 5:8-11)
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we have now been justified by his blood,
how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!
For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son,
how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have now received reconciliation.
— Lift Up Your Hearts (http://www.liftupyourheartshymnal.org)

Jesus himself bore our sins in his body on the cross,
so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness;
by his wounds you have been healed.
—from 1 Peter 2:24, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Ah, Holy Jesus, How Have You Offended

Tune Information

f minor



Ah, Holy Jesus, How Have You Offended

Hymn Story/Background

Using imagery from Isaiah 53 as well as from other Bible passages, the text sets forth the Christian doctrine of Christ's atonement: Christ died for the sin of the world in a substitu­tionary death on the cross. The most striking aspect of the text is its personalization: it was for my sin that Christ died! Thus a generic doctrine has become a deeply personal confession and profound meditation.
Johann Heermann wrote this text during the misery of the Thirty Years' War (1618-48). The fifteen-stanza German text ("Herzliebster Jesu, was hast du verbrochen") was published in Heermann's Devoti Musica Cordis in 1630 with the heading “The cause of the bitter offerings of Jesus Christ, and consolation from his love and grace. From Augustine.” Heermann based his text on the seventh meditation from Jean de Fecamp's Meditationes, a Latin work wrongly attributed by many scholars, including Heermann, to St. Augustine.
Based on both Latin and German sources, the rather free translation is by Robert S. Bridges. That translation was first published in five stanzas in 1897 in Hymns in Four Parts, a hymn book reissued in 1899 as the famous Yattendon Hymnal.
Partially based on earlier melodies (including the Genevan tune for Psalm 23), HERZLIEBSTER JESU was composed by Johann Crüger and published in his Neues vollkömliches Gesangbuch (1640). Johann S. Bach used the tune in both his St. Matthew Passion and St. John Passion, and various other composers have written preludes on the chorale.
HERZLIEBSTER JESU is a sober tune in minor tonality; it provides a strong match for Heermann's text. Sing with solemnity. Accompany in a subdued manner except at the final phrase of stanza 3, "for my salvation," a phrase that merits full organ accompani­ment.
— Bert Polman

Author Information

Johann Heermann's (b. Raudten, Silesia, Austria, 1585; d. Lissa, Posen [now Poland], 1647) own suffering and family tragedy led him to meditate on Christ's undeserved suffering. The only surviving child of a poor furrier and his wife, Heermann fulfilled his mother's vow at his birth that, if he lived, he would become a pastor. Initially a teacher, Heermann became a minister in the Lutheran Church in Koben in 1611 but had to stop preaching in 1634 due to a severe throat infection. He retired in 1638. Much of his ministry took place during the Thirty Years' War. At times he had to flee for his life and on several occasions lost all his possessions. Although Heermann wrote many of his hymns and poems during these devastating times, his personal faith and trust in God continued to be reflected in his lyrics. He is judged to be the finest hymn writer in the era between Martin Luther and Paul Gerhardt, one whose work marks a transition from the objective hymns of the Reformation to the more subjective hymns of the seventeenth century. His hymn texts were published in collections such as Devoti Musica Cordis, Hauss- und Hertz-Musica (1630, expanded in 1636, 1644), and Sontags- und Fest-evangelia (1636).
— Bert Polman

Robert S. Bridges (b. Walmer, Kent, England, 1844; d. Boar's Hill, Abingdon, Berkshire, England, 1930) based this free translation on both German and Latin sources. In a modern listing of important poets Bridges' name is often omitted, but in his generation he was consid­ered a great poet and fine scholar. He studied medicine and practiced as a physician until 1881, when he moved to the village of Yattendon. He had already written some poetry, but after 1881 his literary career became a full-time occupation, and in 1913 he was awarded the position of poet laureate in England. Bridges published The Yattendon Hymnal (1899), a collection of one hundred hymns (forty-four written or translated by him with settings mainly from the Genevan psalter, arranged for unaccompanied singing. In addition to volumes of poetry, Bridges also published A Practical Discourse on Some Principles of Hymn-Singing (1899) and About Hymns (1911).
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

Johann Crüger (b. Grossbriesen, near Guben, Prussia, Germany, 1598; d. Berlin, Germany, 1662) attended the Jesuit College at Olmutz and the Poets' School in Regensburg, and later studied theology at the University of Wittenberg. He moved to Berlin in 1615, where he published music for the rest of his life. In 1622 he became the Lutheran cantor at the St. Nicholas Church and a teacher for the Gray Cloister. He wrote music instruction manuals, the best known of which is Synopsis musica (1630), and tirelessly promoted congregational singing. With his tunes he often included elaborate accom­paniment for various instruments. Crüger's hymn collection, Neues vollkomliches Gesangbuch (1640), was one of the first hymnals to include figured bass accompaniment (musical shorthand) with the chorale melody rather than full harmonization written out. It included eighteen of Crüger's tunes. His next publication, Praxis Pietatis Melica (1644), is considered one of the most important collections of German hymnody in the seventeenth century. It was reprinted forty-four times in the following hundred years. Another of his publications, Geistliche Kirchen Melodien (1649), is a collection arranged for four voices, two descanting instruments, and keyboard and bass accompaniment. Crüger also published a complete psalter, Psalmodia sacra (1657), which included the Lobwasser translation set to all the Genevan tunes.
— Bert Polman
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