Jesus In River

Nobody reads poetry for fun anymore. At least not anyone I know, have met or have heard of. Poetry needs music in the background, a cool band strumming and drumming, or an intriguing singer crooning out the tune.

Just sometimes a musician is a poet, like Bob Dylan, but this is rare. And even more unusual is a poet-musician-Christian. Should we wait for them? I think not.

Does a poet or a musician have to be a Christian for us to find meaning in their lines? I reckon we could be waiting a long time for that.

Until that happens, here is a poem by a famous poet. He is not a musician (as far as I know) and nor is Ted Hughes considered to be a Christian poet. I don’t know if he would call himself one either. But that does not stop him from inadvertently preaching the Gospel in his famous poem, River.

Whether he intended to do this or not is not important. Even less important is whether he considers the Gospel to be another example of myth to be added with all the other classical and non-classical tales of pantheons of gods and the adventures of demi-gods. He appears to be a polytheist/pantheist, and so, Jesus is ‘a god’ amongst every other self-proclaimed deity in all religions worldwide.

God rebuked the prophet Balaam through his donkey. If God can preach through anybody, than we should always be willing to hear and see God in all things as far as each of us can handle.

Oh, yeah, and I know poetry is not exactly “progressive culture,” but if truths about Jesus can be found in movies or songs then why should our defenses fly up when similar ones are discovered in another famous art form?

If you take two minutes to read this short poem you will enjoy the interesting way he has likened Jesus to a river.

Fallen from heaven, lies across / The lap of his mother, broken by world. This is a reference to the recently dead Jesus lying on His mother Mary’s lap in the famous sculpture by Michelangelo. He had been tortured and crucified by all people so He was broken by the world.

But water will go on / Issuing from heaven. Jesus, after having ascended into heaven left His Spirit behind, which will quench all who believe in Him. He gives His Spirit to anyone who asks, and the function of His Spirit is to make us like Christ or “little anointed ones” so that the world will constantly have Jesus flowing into them from heaven.

In dumbness uttering spirit brightness / Through its broken mouth. The Spirit from heaven brings forth life and light from a broken mouth – the mouth of the beaten and resurrected Jesus. Silently He commands spiritual light to come forth into the darkness of the world just as in Creation God said, ‘LIGHT!’ and there was light.

Scattered in a million pieces and buried / Its dry tombs will split, as a sign in the sky. Before Jesus arrived, Israel was divided and on the verge of extinction when at the crucifixion the sky turned completely dark. After which, the embodiment of Israel – Jesus – gave up His spirit and the tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life (Matthew 27:52).

At a rending of veils / It will rise, in a time after times. Immediately before the tombs broke open, the curtain of the temple in Jerusalem was torn in two from top to bottom. Jesus was resurrected on the third day – time after times.

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After swallowing death and the pit / It will return stainless. When He was resurrected, Jesus was glorified and had spent His time of burial in defeating sin and death.

For the delivery of this world. / So the river is a god. Here lies Hughes’ blatant pantheism. It’s true that Jesus delivered the world from sin and death, but being God Himself, precedes this action. Delivering the world reveals He is God, it doesn’t qualify His deity. The ‘river’ in this poem is God.

Knee-deep among reeds, watching men / Or hung by the heels down the door of a dam. This is saying that, though He was God, He knelt down to become a living, breathing servant on earth even to the point of death, where His heels were nailed down. Behind the cross there was a dam of righteousness waiting to burst.

It is a god, and inviolable. / Immortal. And will wash itself of all deaths. Whether alive amongst men or hanging dead on a cross, now that He is resurrected, God’s Son, Jesus, cannot be violated anymore. He is immortal and He is at work at sin and death in the world from that point onwards.

There are many poems and many symbols and in every one you can find God waiting to tell you something important. Don’t be fussy about what you read, God may want you to discover a hidden gem.

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