I blogged yesterday about how music plays a huge part in the story of God’s grace in my life so far and about my desire to tell that story by sharing about some of the songs that God has used to get through to me the reality of who He is and what He has done, is doing, and will do for me in and through Jesus Christ. Today I’m going to talk about Jeremy Camp’s This Man. This song was a single from his 2004 release Restored. It was a #1 single in early 2006, but to me, it seemed like the song was never played enough. It was one of the handful of songs that I was always searching for when I flipped through the four Christian music radio stations I had access to.
When I was a confused and lonely pre-teen, I really didn’t have a good grasp on the cross of Jesus and what it means for people who put their hope in it. I had some idea that what Jesus did on the cross was supposed to mean something for me in the way of atonement, but I didn’t really understand how. I’ve always been susceptible to being moved emotionally by music, and I remember that this song had a big emotional impact on me. There was something in the words, “Would you take the place of this Man / Would you take the nails from His hands?” sung in this way with this melody that made me realize that there could be hope and beauty and even glory in the midst of suffering, and not just in spite of the suffering, but because of what the suffering meant. It made me feel all the same longings I felt when I read about Narnia (and I lied in Narnia for a few years). Maybe that was the beginning of my hope that a desire for otherworldly love and meaning could be in some way fulfilled in this world instead of being shunted off into fantasies of another world that didn’t really exist. All of this came at me in a mystical sort of way, instead of being anchored in concrete propositional truths about Jesus, who He is, and what He has done. But I can say that it made me feel the sort of things that a person should feel about those truths, and made me suspect that there was a beauty to be found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ itself that was deeper than the music and the poetry, a beauty which I might somehow be able to find my way into.
Fast forward ten years, and a more perfect realization of what the Gospel is and what it means has only made this song more precious to me. When we really understand the perfect sacrifice of Jesus, all of our efforts at do-it-yourself atonement have to come to an end. This Man, hanging on a cross, rejected by men and carrying the wrath of God, has done something for us that we could never do for ourselves. He has put our sin to death, carried the wrath of God we deserved, and made a way for us to be welcomed into the fullness of God’s presence. And sometimes we simply have to stop ourselves in our efforts of making our way with God through our efforts at being good and our efforts at making up to Him for our failures to be good, and ask ourselves, “How can I ever think that I can take the place of this Man? How could I ever do for myself what He has done for me? Why am I trying to carry for myself a burden that He has taken for me?” I ask myself that question a little more frequently because of this song’s presence in my life, and it’s so good for my heart and my walk with Jesus.