Lenten Hymns and their Story

March 23, 2023

“O Dearest Jesus, What Law Hast Thou Broken”

Johann Heermann (1585-1647), the author, was the most important Lutheran hymn writer of the 17th century, before Paul Gerhart.  The fifteen verses of this hymn first appeared in 1630 during the “most angry days” of the “Thirty Years War”.  Serving as pastor in the city of Koben, it was plundered four times by Catholic forces during the conflict.  Before the war ended, the “pestilence” (plague) struck, and devastated the population.  “Sliced”, as he stated, a number of times by the sabers of the opposing army, wounded by bullets three times while helping those in need, he had to finally stop preaching, because a severe throat ailment; moving to Poland where he finally died of an infection in his throat.           
Throughout all these struggles, he wrote this hymn, concerning the devastation that was placed upon our Lord; the One whom did nothing to deserve any of this hurt.  He considered himself the “labor of our Lord’s torment”.   No matter how much he suffered in this life, Heermann, always saw the suffering of Christ as of utmost importance to be preached and held up for all to see, no matter the difficult circumstances surrounding him.  
The final verse speaks of the fulfillment of the new life of the redeemed, who have now been saved by “Jesus’ trip to the cross.”    

O dearest Jesus, what law hast Thou broken
That such sharp sentence should on Thee be spoken?
Of what great crime hast Thou to make confession,
What dark transgression?

LSB 439

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