My children love music. They love to have mommy and daddy sing for them at bedtime. One of their favorite songs, is “Jesus Loves Me”. I thought we’d spend some time today looking at the song’s origins and exercising some Biblical Discernment.
This song began as a song written for a child, so it is fitting that we consider it a children’s hymn to this day. The content of this song, however, is well worth heading as adults. It seems so much easier to proclaim the love of Jesus to the world than it is to accept it for myself. I don’t think I’m alone in that.
15 Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
Performed by Johnny Cash[youtube https://youtu.be/6JxCgo6iPrg]
Written by Anna Bartlett Warner (1860)
For a little background on her, let’s look to the quick bio found in CyberHymnal.com:
Anna’s father was Henry Warner, a wealthy New York City lawyer. When he lost most of his fortune in the 1837 depression, the family was forced to move to their summer home (Good Craig) on Constitution Island in the Hudson River. It was then that Anna and her sister Susan began writing to earn money. They also conducted Bible classes for cadets at the nearby Military Academy at West Point. In memory of her, the Academy’s Constitution Island Association manages the Warner’s island property as an historic site.
When Susan was writing a novel, Say and Seal, she asked her sister, Anna, to write a song that the doctor could sing to a sick boy. The following appeared in that novel on pages 115-116.
Jesus loves me—this I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to him belong,—
They are weak, but he is strong.
Jesus loves me—He who died
Heaven’s gate to open wide;
He will wash away my sin,
Let His little child come in.
Jesus loves me—loves me still,
Though I’m very weak and ill;
From his shining throne on high,
Comes to watch me where I lie.
Jesus loves me—he will stay,
Close beside me all the way.
Then his little child will take,
Up to heaven for his dear sake.
The Refrain added by William Bradbury (1862)
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.
This wonderful song conveys to children a high view of the Bible and of the Love of Jesus. That He died so that we might enter Heaven, our sing having been washed away. He loves us in our weakness, and is with us to comfort us, and to take us home for His sake. The song isn’t promising “sunshine and lollipops” here on earth. It was, after all, written as a song of comfort to a dying boy in a novel. The folks at HymnTime.com record the following testimony of the song:
The Rev. Dr. Jacob Chamberlain, who for many years has been working among the Hindus, writes as follows regarding this hymn, long one of the most popular children’s songs in the world: “Many years ago I translated into Telegu the children’s hymn, ‘Jesus loves me’ and taught it to the children of our day-school. Scarcely a week later, as I was going through the narrow streets of the native town on horseback, I heard singing that sounded natural, down a side street. I stopped to listen, cautiously drawing up to the corner, where unobserved I could look down the street and see and hear. And there was a little heathen boy, with heathen men and women standing around him, singing away at the top of his voice: ‘Jesus loves me this I know…’
As he completed the verse some one asked the question: ‘Sonny, where did you learn that song?’ ‘Over at the Missionary School,’ was the answer. ‘Who is that Jesus, and what is the Bible?’ ‘Oh! the Bible is the book from God, they say, to teach us how to get to heaven, and Jesus is the name of the divine Redeemer that came into the world to save us from our sins; that is what the missionaries say.’ ‘Well, the song is a nice one. Come, sing us some more.’ And so the little boy went on—a heathen himself, and singing to the heathen—about Jesus and his love. ‘That is preaching the Gospel by proxy,’ I said to myself, as I turned my pony and rode away, well satisfied to leave my little proxy to tell his interested audience all he himself knew, and sing to them over and over that sweet song of salvation.”
Sankey, pp. 179-80
Such a great story of the impact a children’s hymn can have in sharing the Gospel.
John 3:16-21 (ESV) For God So Loved the World
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
John 14:27-29 (ESV)
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.
Amen. When our children are young, the first lesson they need to know down deep inside is that they are loved. They will process what it means to be loved by Jesus by first considering what it means to be loved my Mom and Dad. I am such a poor example of Christ’s love for my dear sweet children, but I will preach, teach, and sing of His love for them until the Day of His return. And I really need to get better about singing the rest of the verses.
In closing, I thought I might share a fun little acoustic Blues version performed by Jeremy Camp at a private concert. A Christian Radio station held a local contest of some sort and the prize was spending time with Jeremy Camp. I hope you enjoy it.
Jeremy Camp does a Blues Version[youtube https://youtu.be/dpO8rY4VmeM]
In Christ Jesus,