Writing this song was an unusual experience for me. I'd already written quite a few songs for worship, but all in a more contemporary worship style, drawing from my own musical background. But I distinctly remember getting this feeling one day that I was going to write a hymn! Now, like most people, I am familiar with hymns - they form part of my church background, and I love the truth contained in many of them. But I don't go home at the end of a busy day and put on a hymns album! So I don't think of hymns as where I'm at musically at all!
Nevertheless, I'd been meditating on the cross, and in particular what it cost the Father to give up his beloved Son to a torturous death on a cross. And what was my part in it? Not only was it my sin that put him there, but if I'd lived at that time, it would probably have been me in that crowd, shouting with everyone else 'crucify him'. It just makes his sacrifice all the more personal, all the more amazing, and all the more humbling.
As I was thinking through this, I just began to sing the melody, and it flowed in the sort of way that makes you think you've pinched it from somewhere! So the melody was pretty instant, but the words took quite a bit of time, reworking things, trying to make every line as strong as I could.
Now I'm finding it gets used all over the world, by all sorts of churches; it seems to be as accessible to a traditional church as it is to a house church, and I'm excited by that. But it has perhaps branded me as an old man before my time. It was fed back to me that at a conference a couple who loved the song were surprised to hear I was still alive...
How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss -
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.
Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life -
I know that it is finished.
I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart -
His wounds have paid my ransom.