It’s one of the classic “little kid” Christian songs that cradle Christians in many traditions learn…

Jesus loves me, this I know
for the Bible tells me so.

Little ones to him belong;
they are weak but he is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me!  Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.

Complete with a cute little melody, it’s the perfect song for young kids to learn, enjoy, and promptly grow out of and cast aside in favor more exciting music.

Obvious repetition aside, this Hymn for Children is worth a fresh look.  First of all, it has more verses that a lot of us never heard as children.  In the new hymnal Magnify the Lord, or Common Praise 2017, it is #431, and has four verses.  Here are verses 2-4.

Jesus loves me – this I know – As he loved so long ago,
Taking children on his knee, Saying “Let them come to me.”

Yes, Jesus loves me… etc.

Jesus loves me – loves me still, Even when I’m weak and ill;
From his shining throne on high, Comes to watch me where I lie.
Yes, Jesus loves me… etc.

Jesus loves me!  He who died Heaven’s gate to open wide;
He will wash away my sin, Let his little child come in.

Yes, Jesus loves me… etc.

What this hymn is doing, quite simply, is setting out a theological truth in verse 1 and then exploring the biblical evidence in the next three which verse 1 claims.  So verse 2 looks back to the ministry of Jesus, during which he directly welcomed children; verse 3 brings that biblical love back into the present and highlights his continual care and watching-over; and verse 4 points us into the future, towards our death in the following of Christ’s death.

Hopefully this gives you a newfound respect for ye olde Jesus Loves Me.  But if you still think it’s silly, consider the song printed right before it (#430) in the same hymnal:

My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

This classic hymn, only 25 years older than Jesus Loves Me, is remarkably similar.  It, too, has a repetitive refrain with a message that is only one small step away: from “Jesus loves me” to “On Christ… I stand.”  This first verse is conceptually just as simple as Jesus Loves Me, and its melody is equally basic.  If all you ever heard of this hymn was its first verse, it probably wouldn’t be quite so beloved among adults as it is today.

Even more interesting, when you look at how the lyrics unfold, Solid Rock follows the same structure as Jesus Loves Me:

  1. Basic theological premise
  2. Looking back to Jesus’ example to back up or explain the premise
  3. Applying Jesus’ example to the present
  4. Pointing to the future – death and resurrection

With that in mind, now read verses 2-4.

When darkness veils his lovely face, I rest on his unchanging grace;
In ev’ry high and stormy gale, My anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand… etc.

His oath, his covenant, his blood, Support me  in the ‘whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand… etc.

When he shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in him be found,
Dressed in his righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the throne.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand… etc.

The same pattern is found in both hymns.  Yes, the first was written especially for (and about) children, and the second is clearly more “grown-up” in its word choice, language, and range of biblical allusion and reference, but both hymns are solid expositions of the Christian faith.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s