The Poetry of George Herbert: “The Sacrifice” (Pt. 3)

We continue to dive deeper into George Herbert’s poem “The Sacrifice.” Today we come one step closer to the end… one step closer to the point where Jesus lets out his final breath of desperation “now all is finished.” But we aren’t quite there yet. Today we find ourselves staring at Jesus on the cross. More specifically where are at the point where Jesus is being taunted to come down if indeed he is the Son of God. Drawing from another part from the Gospels, Herbert puts a well know quote in Jesus’ mouth which sheds new light upon the significance of the cross:

Now heal thyself, Physician; now come down.
Alas! I did so, when I left my crown
And father’s smile for you, to feel his frown:
Was ever grief like mine?

Once again we see Herbert’s use of irony shining through the poem. “Now come down” they taunt Jesus… ah but if only they new He has come down! Jesus has left his crown, he has left his riches! And it is all for our sake! “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)

As Paul further elaborates upon this fact in his epistle to the Philippians:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very natureof a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6-11)

Once again Herbert shows us the gravity of what Christ has done for us. His coming down… his leaving the crown. It is all for our sake. Christ has felt the Father’s frown upon himself so that the Father might smile upon us. Jesus has substituted himself in our place. He has taken what we have deserved upon himself so that we might experience the joy of the Father upon us! This is no mere legal exchange. This isn’t mechanistic. This isn’t just our slate wiped clean. No this is the Father rejoicing in us! We are the apple of our Father’s eye! He sings songs over us because he is so pleased with us:

The Lord your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

Yet this is no mere penal substitution, it has a healing element to it as well. The irony shows this. Physician heal thyself, come down! The great physician has come down and he has brought healing….yet the healing is not for himself. The healing is for the same people who taunt him, who turn their back on him. The healing is for the broken and sinful. Its for us…

So today rejoice! He has come down! Yet its not in the way anyone expected. He has come down so that the Father might rejoice in us and so that we would be healed from this disease that afflicts us that we call sin.

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