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Tis Midnight and on Olive's Brow

April 01, 2020
By Pastor Matt

Recently, myself and 45 other brothers and sisters in Christ, had the opportunity to travel to the land of Israel to walk where our Lord Jesus walked. We saw all the highlight sites of the Biblical story of the Galilee, Meggido, the Dead Sea, Bethlehem, and of course Jerusalem. In each site, the biblical story which was read, became vividly alive with each one of our group having their favorite stop. But one of the most powerful ones for any on this tour was the Mount of Olives and particularly, the Garden of Gethsemane. This was the place where Jesus and his disciples rested in and traveled through many times. But during our season of Lent, we remember that this place was the place of prayer and later betrayal. As we read the test from John 17 and following of those moments with Jesus in the garden with his disciples, the hymn that kept running through my mind was the theologically rich hymn of William B. Tappan, a 28 year old clockmaker, who in one of his sleepness nights penned, "Tis midnight on Olive's brow."

It isn't the most popular hymn of the season, as its tune penned by William B. Bradbury, is in the dissent key of Ab major. But I would argue, it is the richest hymn of the season...and if unfamiliar to you, you should go on YouTube and listen to it at least once in this season. But for our purposes here, it is important that we at least read the verses:

  • 'Tis midnight; and on Olive's brow the star is dimmed that lately shone: 'tis midnight; in the garden now the suff'ring Savior prayers alone.
  • 'Tis midnight; and, from all removed, Emmanuel wrestles lone with fears; e'en the disciple that he loved heeds not his Master's grief and tears.
  • 'Tis midnight; and, for other's guilt, the Man of Sorrows weeps in blood; yet he that hath in anguish knelt is not forsaken by his God.
  • 'Tis midnight; from the heav'nly plains is borne the song that angels know; unheard by mortals are the strains that sweetly soothe the Savior's woe.

As you can see, the hymn vividly describes the pain, anguish, and pressing out of Jesus as our Savior, which brought sweat drops of blood to fall from his brow for the weight of our sins which we bring to bear on our minds at all times, but particularly in this time of trouble and fear of pandemic in our world. May each of us have a renewed sense of awe and wonder as we think about the willingness of our Savior to suffer the price that we deserved...suffering that already began at midnight in the olive grove of Gethsemane so long ago that we can be moved by even today as we think about our redemption found in Christ alone who conquered sin and the grave.


Pastor Matt

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