March 14, 2023

Lenten Hymns and their Story

“In Silent Pain the Eternal Son”

During Christopher Idle’s time serving an inner city parish, he listened to colleagues lamenting the absence of hymns treating the atonement.   Hymn writers, he noted, were producing hymns that displayed Christ’s majesty and power, but rarely His cross.  Idle (b. 1938) responded in 1989 with “The Strangest Victory”, later known by it’s first line, “In silent pain the Eternal Son.”  The text is based on 1st Peter 2:21-25.
Verse 1 pictures the dark day [Matthew 27:45] of a dead Jesus.  He hangs silently, abandoned by God, who happens to be His Father, because He carries all our sin.  The world looks on, senseless to understand [John 3:13; 1st Corinthians 1:18].  Victory?  How on earth can victory look like this?  Less than 24 hours earlier, Jesus had prayed that His Father’s will be done.  With the silent, Eternal Lamb’s sacrifice, the books are now closed.
Verse 2 moves from justification to sanctification.  Jesus unites us not only with His death, but also with His resurrection, so that even now we have died to sin and live new lives [Romans 7:6].  The blood of Christ reaches even into fallen creation and releases it from the Genesis 3 curse.
In Verse 2 Christ brings peace, in verse three He comes with His sword, which is identified in the hymn as “the truth to end all lies” and in Scripture as His Word, in the presence of which all lies cease.  Jesus’ scars of humiliation now transformed into badges of honor, Jesus’ hands support both the stars in their courses and the continuing journey of our personal sanctification [being made holy], until the final day of Christ.
By faith we, like Peter, meet Peter’s gaze, as the last line of the hymn suggests, and in repentant joy we see God’s love displayed “in strangest victory”.

In silent pain the eternal son hangs derelict and still;
In darkened day His work is done, fulfilled, His Father’s will.
Uplifted for the world to see He hangs in strangest victory,
For in His body on the tree He carries all our ill.

LSB 432

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