Home > Gesimatide, Ransacking the Lost Treasures of the Lutheran Church > “See, we are going up to Jerusalem”–Bach’s Cantata for Quinquagesima (Estomihi) Sunday

“See, we are going up to Jerusalem”–Bach’s Cantata for Quinquagesima (Estomihi) Sunday

jesus' back 9https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CM_dri0nbEg

Johann Sebastian Bach wrote the music above for this coming Sunday in the Church Year–in the one year lectionary.  This is one of the benefits of using the old lectionary; there are hundreds of years of treasures to draw from when you are meditating on the meaning of the readings.

Below is an English translation of the first two parts of the cantata.  In the second part, part of the music will be familiar, because it is a hymn many of us have sung many times during Lent: “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.”

If you listen and can follow the German words and read the translation, you can see how Bach is drawing us to meditate on the reading.  One voice, representing Jesus, repeats Christ’s words from the Gospel (Luke 18:31 and following): See, we go up to Jerusalem.  The other voice, representing the believer’s soul, responds to Jesus’ words.

In the second part, the voice representing the Christian talking to Jesus expresses her intent to follow Jesus to the cross.  Interwoven through the soul’s meditation is the words of the hymn that would be extremely familiar to the churchgoers in Bach’s day.  As the soul meditates on going with Jesus to Jerusalem, the old words of the hymn resound, the words that the people listening have sung many times.  It is the Church’s voice, and they are reminded that they have sung this before, and in singing it they are joining with the bride of Christ of ages past in her resolution to follow Jesus and remain with Him at the cross of shame.

That is, of course, just what we don’t want to do when Jesus puts the cross in front of us today.  It was the same in Bach’s time.  As the church listens to the cantata (Bach wrote this for use in the church in Leipzig, Germany, in the 1720s) as Lent begins, the church in Leipzig sees themselves confronted with the journey to the cross just as the disciples were.  The only difference is that we, together with Bach, know how the story ends–in the Resurrection.

And yet it’s one thing to know how the story went for Jesus in the Gospel, and it’s another thing to believe that the story is going to turn out the same way for you when you are journeying to Jerusalem with Jesus!

Isn’t it?


BWV 159 – “Sehet! Wir gehn hinauf Johann_Sebastian_Bachgen Jerusalem”


Cantata   for Estomihi
1. Arioso und Recitativ   B A
Komm, schaue doch, mein Sinn,
Wo geht dein Jesus hin?
Wir gehn   hinauf
O harter Gang! Hinauf?
O ungeheurer Berg, den meine Sünden zeigen!
Wie sauer wirst du müssen steigen!
  Gen Jerusalem,
Ach, gehe nicht!
Dein Kreuz ist dir schon zugericht’,
Wo du dich sollst zu Tode bluten;
Hier sucht man Geißeln vor, dort bindt man Ruten,
Die Bande warten dein;
Ach, gehe selber nicht hinein!
Doch bliebest du zurücke stehen,
So müßt ich selbst nicht nach Jerusalem,
Ach,, leider in die Hölle gehen.
(Luke   18:31)
1. Arioso and Recitative   B A
Come, look yet, o my mind,
Where does your Jesus go?
  Let us go up
O hard way! Go up?
O monstrous mountain, indicated by my sins!
How bitter that You must climb it!
  To Jesusalem,
Ah, don’t go!
Your Cross is already prepared for You,
where You will bleed to death;
here scourges are sought, there reeds are bound,
Your bonds await You;
Ah, don’t go there Yourself!
Yet, were You to remain behind,
then I myself could not go to Jerusalem,
alas, rather to Hell must go.
2. Arie und Choral A S
Ich folge dir nach
 Ich will   hier bei dir stehen,
Durch Speichel und Schmach,
  Verachte   mich doch nicht!
Am Kreuz will ich dich noch umfangen,
  Von dir   will ich nicht gehen,
  Bis dir   dein Herze bricht.

Dich laß ich nicht aus meiner Brust,
  Wenn dein   Haupt wird erblassen
  Im letzten   Todesstoß,

Und wenn du endlich scheiden mußt,
  Alsdenn   will ich dich fassen,
Sollst du dein Grab in mir erlangen.
  In meinen   Arm und Schoß.
(“O Haupt voll   Blut und Wunden,” verse 6)
2. Aria and Chorale A S
I follow after You
  I will   stay here with You,
through spitting and shame,
  do not   scorn me!
I will still embrace You on the Cross,
I will not   leave You,
  even as   Your heart breaks.

I will not release You from my breast,
  When Your   head grows pale
  at the   last stroke of death,
And if You must depart at last,
  Then I   will hold You fast
You shall find Your grave in me.
  In my arm   and bosom.

ht: http://www.emmanuelmusic.org/notes_translations/translations_cantata/t_bwv159.htm

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