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William Cowper's Blood Fountain (Part II)

The dying thief rejoiced to see
that fountain in his day;
and there have I, though vile as he,
washed all my sins away.

We continue our exploration of William's Cowper's 'Blood Fountain' with a look at this second verse. This is an unexpected turn. It appears that far from being a place of sorrow, the fountain is in fact a place of joy. Those who come to the blood fountain are not expected to leave as they came, they leave rejoicing because the blood from Immanuel's veins flows with new life!

At the blood fountain we meet Jesus being crucified accompanied with two thieves. Cowper focuses our minds on one thief in particular. We do not know his name but we know his identity. He is called the “dying thief”. He is dying because he has been sentenced to the Roman cross. This is the end of the road for him. He has nothing to look forward to. He is being put to death because he is a thief. His death is a matter of justice.

As "the dying thief" says to the other criminal (on the other side of Jesus), “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve”. The two thieves are getting what they deserve, in sharp contrast to Jesus who is dying an innocent death. The dying thief is not just a private thief, he is a publicly recognised thief. Shame covers this man’s life and the whole world knows it. We can safely say that his family must be far from him at this moment, not wishing to share his shame as the scum of the earth!

Yet, for all this, the true identity of the “dying thief” is changed the moment he meets Jesus. We are told that as Jesus hangs on the cross, the other thief begins to insult Jesus. It appears the “dying thief” initially joined in and then something clicked. He turns to his fellow criminal and rebukes him for not fearing God. He then turn s to Jesus and asks the impossible, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”.

It finally dawns on him not only that death cannot hold Jesus but Jesus is loving enough to give him what he does not deserve! How will Jesus react? It is vintage Jesus. He says to the dying thief that “today you will be with me in paradise.” In an instant, the dying thief moves from criminally insane to the front of paradise queue with a VIP seat!  Not tomorrow, but today you will be in paradise! To say the thief  “the dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day” is a great understatement.

The truth is that there are no words that can truly capture what has happened to the thief and the joy he feels. This man has not just been saved from eternal punishment, he has been given eternal bliss with God at the moment he least expects it. At this point of death when he was heaped with shame and facing his last breath he had a moment of joy. Joy in the middle of pain. We don’t expect to find joy at the moment of crucifixion but it is there for all who truly see the One who is being crucified!

Cowper wants us to really get the comprehensiveness of the cross. The joy of the cross is not just for the dying man, it is available to anyone as vile as the dying thief. The source of this joy is the "blood fountain”. That fountain that is “filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins”. The sight of death and blood gives joy to this dying thief because flowing out of this blood is a flood that enables sinners to plunge in it and “lose all their guilty stains”.The dying thief is joyous because he is not just greeting the fountain from afar but is plunging into it. 

The point being made is that the good news of Jesus brings tremendous joy to us in the middle of death because it is our very life here and now. The blood of Jesus is life in the midst of death in the here and now. It does not matter who or what our background is, forgiveness of sin is available, just as it was available to the the “dying thief”.

We too are thieves against God. That is exactly what sin in! It is an attempt to steal God’s control and ownership over all things, including ourselves.  Augustine of Hippo said, “Sin is believing the lie that you are self-created, self-dependent and self-sustained.” Sin forgets that God owns and controls everything and imposes itself on life!

Suppose you go on a long trip over the summer, say to the Maldives, and leave your residence under the supervision of a caretaker. You trust her with all your possessions. While you are away, she moves into your house and claims it for her own. She engraves her name on your letterbox, places her name on your accounts. She plomps her dirty feet on your coffee table and invites her buddies to sleep in your bed. She claims your authority and sends you this message: “Don’t come back. I’m running things now.”

The Bible’s word for this is sin. Sin is not a regrettable lapse or an occasional stumble. As Max Lucado vividly puts it, “sin stages a coup against God’s regime. Sin storms the castle, lays claim to God’s throne, and defies his authority”. Sin shouts, 'I want to run my own life, thank you very much!' Sin tells God to get out, get lost, and not come back. Sin is insurrection of the highest order. Sin makes us all dying thieves because ultimately the wages of our treason is death!

The good news is that forgiveness is available at the blood fountain. Yes, we deserve death just like the dying thief. But the same scandalous grace of God that guaranteed the dying thief a place in paradise is available to everyone right now. Jesus is beckoning us to go to the blood fountain. He says, I have already died for you so that you don’t have to. I love you and you mean the world to me! I want you to accept to wash in my blood and receive forgiveness for all, not just some, but all your sins. Come home and receive my grace!

Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2015

Related Posts :

William Cowper's Blood Fountain (Part I)

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