Hail Thou Once Despised Jesus

Hymn #176 is a song of praise to Jesus Christ for His sacrificial death on our behalf. The Second Person would have been worthy of praise had He never been incarnate and had He never died, but Revelation 5:9 cites this fact in particular: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation…” Indeed, we would have never known God to praise Him rightly if Jesus had not died to save us. He became lowly and despised, a common poor man, in order to enter fully into our suffering. He released us from slavery to sin and misery, and we find the favor of God through His merits, the hymn tells us in the rest of verse 1.

Verse 2 calls Jesus the “paschal lamb.” This refers to the Passover, the Old Testament remembrance of the tenth plague in Egypt and their deliverance from slavery. That tenth plague was the death of all the firstborn in Egypt, and by the presence of the blood of the Passover lamb on the door of the Hebrew houses, in obedience to God’s instruction, the Hebrews were spared the visit from the Angel of Death who passed over their houses. Jesus is declared to be the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), is seen by John as a slain Lamb (Rev. 5:6) and is declared to be “our Passover who was sacrificed for us” by Paul (1 Corinthians 5:7). He atones for our sins, paying the price for them as they are laid on Him on the cross, so that we are guiltless before God, and made peace between man and God (verse 2, last line).

For this cause we worship Christ and we thank Him for all we have. We know that without this act of sacrifice, we would be doomed to hell and destruction, and that means that every single good thing we enjoy is Christ’s gift to us. Even the unbeliever enjoys God’s good things for a time only because of Christ’s death; without that death all of mankind would have been destroyed by God. So we thank Christ not only for forgiveness of sins and eternal life, but for every other good thing as well.

It is therefore very fitting, as the hymn writer says, to worship Christ always. He is our Savior and our King, and our very best worship does not do Him justice. Therefore the hymn writer even calls on the angels to assist us to worship Christ more perfectly and purely, which we know they will do in heaven. In the meantime, aided by God’s word, we can do our best to honor Christ for all His gifts to us and know that we can never even come close to worshiping Him enough. When we sing and praise Him, therefore, let us do so joyfully and thankfully, offering Him the best praise we are capable of in this life.

1 Hail, thou once despised Jesus!
Hail, thou Galilean King!
Thou didst suffer to release us:
Thou didst free salvation bring.
Hail, thou agonizing Saviour,
Bearer of our sin and shame!
By thy merits we find favor;
Life is given through thy name.

2 Paschal Lamb, by God appointed,
All our sins were on thee laid;
By almighty love anointed,
Thou hast full atonement made:
All thy people are forgiven
Through the virtue of thy blood;
Opened is the gate of heaven,
Peace is made ‘twixt man and God.

3 Jesus, hail! enthroned in glory,
There for ever to abide;
All the heav’nly hosts adore thee,
Seated at thy Father’s side:
There for sinners thou art pleading;
There thou dost our place prepare;
Ever for us interceding,
Till in glory we appear.

4 Worship, honor, power, and blessing
Thou art worthy to receive:
Loudest praises without ceasing,
Meet it is for us to give.
Help, ye bright angelic spirits,
Bring your sweetest, noblest lays;
Help to sing our Saviour’s merits,
Help to chant Immanuel’s praise.