O Sacred Head, Now Wounded

“Scornfully Surrounded”

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.  Isaiah 53:5

I’m not a blood-and-guts kind of girl. I don’t watch R-rated bloodbaths filled with graphic torture scenes or read books saturated with gruesome crimes. They give me nightmares. Even reading the Scriptures that describe Christ’s suffering on the cross disturbs me. But I know it’s spiritually beneficial for me to read them, so I do.

I don’t think Luke was a blood-and-guts guy. He omitted several details of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion that the other Gospel writers added, like the brutality of the soldiers’ whipping (Matthew 27:26-31, Mark 15:15-20). Instead, Luke focused on the emotional suffering caused by the soldiers’ verbal abuse: “And having blindfolded Him, they struck Him on the face, and asked Him, saying, ‘Prophesy! Who is the one who struck You?” (22:64 NKJV).

Luke also emphasized the blasphemous comments of the crowd that gathered at Calvary: the religious leaders who sneered, “He saved others; let him save himself”; and the Roman soldiers who scoffed, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself” (23:35-36). Luke alone records the conversation between the thieves that hung on either side of Jesus, and the mercy He extended to the repentant criminal (23:39-41).

“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded,” one of the oldest Easter hymns, also stresses the emotional suffering Jesus endured. Its lyrics are attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux, a 12th century French monk. He used phrases like “with grief and shame weighed down,” “scornfully surrounded,” and “though despised and gory” to highlight Christ’s humiliation. Like Luke, he anguished over the blasphemous remarks: “Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee, Thou noble countenance.”

Bernard also realized, as we must realize, that it’s not enough to sorrow over Jesus’ suffering or to mourn our sinfulness. We must respond to the immensity of His sacrifice with adoration and obedience:

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

That is my prayer too. I don’t ever want to outlive my love for Jesus. That’s why I read the biblical accounts of His suffering. They increase my gratitude and strengthen my devotion. May we all embrace Bernard’s resolve, “Here I will stand beside Thee, from Thee I will not part.”


Read Luke’s account of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion in Luke 22:47-23:49. Meditate on all the ways Jesus’ suffered for you—emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Then write Him a prayer of thanksgiving.

Read Luke 1:1-4. Luke indicates that he was not an eyewitness of Jesus’ life. How could he be so certain that he knew the truth about Jesus? How can we be certain? (See John 20:31, 21:24)

Paul tells us in Colossians 4:14 that Luke was a doctor. In what ways could his profession have influenced his perspective on Jesus’ suffering?

What did Jesus say about the cost of loving Him in Luke 9:23-25? What is He asking you to deny for His glory?

To read all the lyrics of O Sacred Head, Now Wounded, go to http://nethymnal.org/htm/o/s/osacredh.htm

 Denise K. Loock

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