"WHY SHOULD HE LOVE ME SO?"
"…They pierced My hands and My feet" (Ps. 22.16)
INTRO.: A song which reminds us of the fact that the hands and feet of Jesus was pierced when He was crucified for us is "Why Should He Love Me So?" (#304 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written and the tune was composed both by Robert Harkness, who was born on Mar. 2, 1880, at Bendigo, Australia, the son of a minister. After attending a revival meeting held by evangelist Ruben Archer Torrey and his song director Charles M. Alexander at his hometown in 1903, he became a musician in Alexander’s company. Apparently not a confessing Christian when he joined their team, under Alexander’s influence he came to Christ shortly thereafter ("on a bicycle," he said) and made several tours around the world with Torrey and Alexander, later working with evangelist J. Wilbur Chapman also. During this time he produced music in his own harmonic style for hundreds of gospel songs which were introduced in these campaigns and later published. Another one of his songs, "Shadows" beginning "When we cross the valley," from 1906, has appeared in some of our books. After coming to the United States, he was educated at Harvard and other eastern universities and became a Congregational minister.
During World War I Harkness was a YMCA director with the Allied Expeditionary Force in France. Beginning in 1920, he appeared in a radio program entitled "The Music of the Cross" and also distributed a correspondence course in piano playing which was later published in one volume by Lillenas Publishing Company. Also he prepared a biography of Ruben Torrey in 1929. "Why Should He Love Me So?", probably his best known song, was completed in 1924 and copyrighted by Robert H. Coleman in 1925. It was renewed in 1952 by Broadman Press. Originally intended for soprano soloist with accompaniment in the stanzas, it was arranged for full four-part harmony by Ellis J. Crum (b. 1928). This arrangement was first published in the 1959 edition of his 1956 Sacred Selections for the Church. Harkness died in London, England, on May 8, 1961. Among other hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the chorus appeared in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 edited by E. L. Jorgenson. Today it may be found, with Crum’s arrangement, in the 1971 Songs of the Church edited by Alton H. Howard and, with a slightly different arrangement, in the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand, as well as the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jefferson.
The song is helpful in calling to our remembrance the death of Jesus because of His love for us.
I. Stanza 1 emphasizes the substitutionary nature of Christ’s death
"Love sent my Savior to die in my stead, Why should He love me so?
Meekly to Calvary’s cross He was led, Why should He love me so?"
A. It was love that sent Jesus to die: Jn. 3.16
B. He died in our stead, that is, as an atonement for us: Rom. 5.8
C. This death took place on Calvary’s cross: Lk. 23.33
II. Stanza 2 emphasizes the suffering involved in Christ’s death
"Nails pierced His hands and His feet for my sin, Why should He love me so?"
He suffered sore my salvation to win, Why should He love me so?"
A. None of the accounts of Jesus’s crucifixion specifically mention His hands and feet being nailed, but we know that they were because Thomas referred to the nail prints in His hands: Jn. 20.25
B. All of this suffering was done for our sins: 1 Cor. 15.3
C. Thus, to save us and bring us to God, He suffered, the just for the unjust: 1 Pet. 3.18
III. Stanza 3 emphasizes the purpose of Christ’s death
"O how He agonized there in my place, Why should He love me so?
Nothing witholding my sin to efface, Why should He love me so?"
A. Jesus must have agonized on the cross because He hung there as a man: Phil. 2.8
B. Again, it is pointed out that He died in our place, to make propitiation for our sins: 1 Jn. 2.2
C. The word "efface" means to erase, to rub or blot out and denotes that the purpose of His death was so that we might have remission of sins: Matt. 26.28 (cf. Acts 2.38, Rom. 6.3-4)
CONCL.: The chorus continues to point out the love so evident in the crucifixion of Jesus.
"Why should He love me so? Why should He love me so?
Why should my Savior to Calvary go? Why should He love me so?"
In one congregation where I labored, this song was frequently used before the Lord’s supper, and it is a very appropriate one to help us show forth the Lord’s death until He comes again. When I partake of the bread and cup, or hear a sermon about the sacrifice of Christ, or read the scriptures that relate to His death, and contrast that to my own sinfulness, then I am truly made to wonder, "Why Should He Love Me So?"
Copyright information: Copyright 1925 by Robert H. Coleman, renewal 1952 by Broadman Press; used by permission of Lifeway Worship Music Group, (615) 251-3771.