Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so…” If there was an all-time greatest hits list for Christian preschool songs, this one would top the list.
Here’s a bit of trivia for you: these words were not written as a song, but as a poem in the 1860’s best-selling novel, Say and Seal, written by Susan and Anna Warner.
The Warner sisters lived with their father on Constitution Island, practically next door to the United States Military Academy at West Point during the tumultuous Civil War era. Susan and Anna were dedicated teachers and writing was their side-job.
Susan (who wrote with the pseudonym Amy Lothrop) encountered writer’s block while penning a chapter of Say and Seal. In the story, a sick boy lay in bed facing an inevitable death. Mr. Linden, the main character of the novel, holds the child’s hand and offers him words of comfort as death approaches. He said, “….
This is where Susan was stuck. What comfort can be offered to a dying child? Susan turned to her sister Anna for help. Anna knew what comfort was needed. She wrote this simple poem of faith:
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—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 melody, the refrain, and a familiar fourth verse were later added by William Bradbury).
Jesus loves me. That’s all a dying child needs to know. Anna wrote these simple words of comfort for a novel, but her words would go on for generations as a clear and uncomplicated testament of faith to ears that have never heard of the novel. (I never did until I wrote this article.)
On the moonless and starless night of August 1st,1943 a young naval crew with a lieutenant named John F. Kennedy patrolled the waters of Blackett Strait near the Solomon Islands. Their PT-109 was struck by a Japanese destroyer and inevitably sunk. Kennedy and the surviving crew swam to the nearest island (which wasn’t that near). Before being rescued on August 7th, the crew interacted with the native islanders. To provide comfort and hope to these exhausted, stranded sailors the natives shared the words of Jesus Loves Me This I Know. Seventh Day Adventist missionaries had brought this hymn of comfort to the other side of the planet and shared it with this isolated people. And now they were sharing its words of comfort with these weary Marines.
Jesus loves me. That’s all an isolated island people in the South Pacific needed to know. Jesus loves me. That’s all a regiment of battered and shipwrecked Marines needed to know.
When Mao Tse Tung established the People’s Republic of China in 1949, it became dangerous to be a Christian in China. The Church was severely persecuted, with little communication about it to the rest of the world. In 1972, an American church received an unusual message from China that said, “The this I know people are well”. Chinese authorities dismissed it as gibberish, but fellow Christians in the U.S. knew it was a reference to the comforting hymn and that their brothers and sisters in the faith were OK in their persecuted surroundings.
Jesus loves me. That’s all an oppressed people in communist China needed to know.
I was shocked when my brother Gregg suddenly died of a heart attack on August 12th, 2016 at the age of 47. My family traveled to Wisconsin to support my grieving parents and to attend the funeral. Gregg was a well-educated pastor, with a deep understanding of Scripture. His long-time friend, college roommate, and now Seminary professor led the funeral. Before the service began, Professor Geiger gathered our family into the fellowship hall to offer words of encouragement. He didn’t provide a profound message that could only come from the mind of a Seminary professor. Instead, he sang the song Jesus Loves Me This I Know. It was a simple breath of comfort before we entered the sanctuary to say our final goodbye to my brother.
Jesus loves me. That is all a grieving family needed to know.
I don’t know what you are going through in your life. But I know you are going through something. Everyone is; it’s life in a sin-riddled world. And your comfort, your encouragement, your peace, your contentment – your everything – is found in Jesus. Jesus loves me. That’s all you need to know too.
Jesus loves me. That’s all your friends, relatives and neighbors need to know. Look for opportunities to talk with them about Jesus. Be the witness God leaves you in this world to be. Invite them to learn about Jesus’s love with you at Grace.
Anna Warner died in 1915 and is buried on Constitution Island. Her grave is marked by a headstone inscribed with the famous words of her poem. Her poem is a simple message, yet it is profound enough to affect a person’s eternity.
Jesus loves me. He paid for sin, he conquered death, he’s by my side in this world and he has a home in heaven ready and waiting for me. That is all I need to know!
Written by Brent R. Bitter, Staff Minister