The old saying goes, “One picture is worth a thousand words.” And so it is with the rich and inviting imagery of this dear old favorite hymn. In its brief opening line, the plea for Jesus to “keep me near” breathes with a compelling warmth and comfort that has power to transform the stark imagery of the cross—ancient implement of death—that concludes the phrase. And whose senses are not drawn in by recollection of a flowing mountain stream as an occasion of joyful refreshment? Here Calvary the hill of crucifixion, in Fanny Crosby’s poetic vision, has been transformed into a mountain from which flows a precious fountain, bringing the free gift of God’s healing grace.
In fact, every word of this brief opening verse is carefully chosen, carefully placed, and artfully contributes to the image of the whole. It is no wonder that it has been such a beloved companion to so many on our Lenten journeys. May it be a companion for your meditation and wonder this Lenten season as well.
Prayer: God of grace and comfort, on our daily journey of faith, keep us ever near the cross, that we might know more deeply the wondrous blessing of your free gift in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
From Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, a 2020 Lenten devotional series by Luther Seminary.