Words of Hope – Daily Devotional – Christ-side-piercing Spear

Read: John 19:31-37

One of the soldiers pierced his side. (v. 33)

Herbert next takes us back to the gospel story, and to the narrative that is literally the crux of it, the account of the crucifixion of our Lord on the cross at Calvary. He points us to John’s version of it, which is distinctive, and which like so much else in the fourth Gospel adds yet greater depth to truths we may already know from the other three.

Jesus has died on the cross, and today we consider what (in every sense) follows that death. The thrust of the soldier’s spear confirms that this really is a dead body. The fluid oozing from the wound separates out, and Augustus Toplady’s hymn “Rock of Ages” highlights the symbolism: “Let the water and the blood / From thy riven side which flowed / Be of sin the double cure: / Cleanse me from its guilt and power.”

When I pray, this is where I begin. I too am at the cross, before the crucified Christ. I too see the water and the blood. It is actually the blood rather than the water that cleanses me, as Jesus in dying takes all my sin on to himself, and bears its penalty for me. The water revives me, as his Spirit gives me new life. The one deals with the guilt of the past, the other sets me on track for the future. Whatever penitence and praise and petition may fill my times of prayer, I have to begin with the Christ-side-piercing spear.

Here is the poem in its entirety:

Prayer (I)


Prayer the Church’s banquet, Angels’ age,

God’s breath in man returning to his birth,

The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,

The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth;

Engine against th’ Almighty, sinner’s tower,

Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,

The six-days-world transposing in an hour,

A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;

Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,

Exalted Manna, gladness of the best,

Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,

The milky way, the bird of Paradise,

Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul’s blood.

The land of spices; something understood.


“Rock of Ages, cleft for me, / Let me hide myself in thee.”


Author: Michael Wilcock



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