I have a picture of our youngest daughter, Haley, holding an earthworm above her open mouth pretending that she is about to eat it. As a fun-loving teenager on a trip with her church youth group, this was yet another moment of laughter as the group served together at Rainbow Omega.
The word “gross” may be a fitting word at the thought of eating a worm. Worms are squiggly and slimy, and they live in the dirt.
If you are repulsed at the thought, good. You are getting the picture.
A few hundred years ago, Isaac Watts wrote words that were made into a hymn entitled, “At the Cross.” In the first verse, Watts wrote:
“Alas, and did my Savior bleed? / And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head / For such a worm as I?”
Observe that Watts described himself as a worm. The wording is likely an allusion to Psalm 22:6 in which the Psalmist David bemoans a time of suffering in his life saying, “But I am a worm and not a man, A reproach of men and despised by the people.”
Some editors have not appreciated the idea of people being called worms, so the wording of the song has been changed in some hymnals. “For such a worm as I” has been changed to “for such a one as I” or “for sinners such as I.”
Yet Watts used the reference to a worm intentionally. Compared to the holiness and purity of Christ, he considered himself to be a worm—a squiggly, slimy, dirty worm. I think his reference is appropriate and accurate.
But here’s the Good News: God loves “worms” like you and me. He wants to save us and add us to His forever family.
Psalm 22 is also a Messianic psalm. Jesus quoted this psalm as He was dying on the cross (see Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46). Read Psalm 22 and you will see statements that point to the cross of Christ.
Jesus was treated like a worthless worm when He was nailed to the cross. Compare Psalm 22:6-8 and Matthew 27:39-43.
Why did people treat Jesus this way? Because they viewed him as an imposter. They did not believe He was the Messiah, the Son of God; they considered Him to be a worm.
Jesus, the sinless Son of God, was treated like a worm but at the same time, He was paying the price for the sins of worms like you and me. “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24 ESV).
God will save and give eternal life to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). He will continue to cleanse from sin those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7-9).
Watts asked, “Would He devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?” The answer is “Yes!” Jesus died for worms like us so that we can become sons and daughters of God.
David A. Sargent
Creekwood church of Christ