A chorus first sung in Sunday School. Learned early in life – and never forgotten as long as life lasts! Old age comes and so much can fade from memory, but these lines are still remembered. Residents gather in a care home, patients meet together in a hospital and when the tune is played, when the chorus begins, how many are able to join in!
What value there is in this chorus! Spiritual value! Value for those just commencing life’s journey – and value too for those nearing the journey’s end! The reality of Christ’s love; the meaning of His Cross; the opportunity to enter His Heaven – all described here.
The story is told about a notable theologian who had given a lecture in an American University. He then invited questions. A student stood and asked him if he could summarize all that he had learned in life in one sentence. Without any hesitation, the theologian answered: “Yes! In the words of a song I learned at my mother’s knee: ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so’.”
The lines first appeared in a children's novel, “Say and Seal”, by two American sisters - Susan Warner and Anna Bartlett Warner. In the novel, published in 1860, one of the characters, Mr Linden, sings them to a dying boy.
The boy, Johnny, later says to Mr Linden: "Read about Heaven - what you used to" and Mr Linden reads to him from the second last chapter of the Bible, Revelation 21:
"And he shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem ... And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there … And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life."
"That's the same Gate", Johnny said. "Yes", Mr Linden said, "that is the Gate where His little child shall go in! And that is the beautiful city where the Lord Jesus lives, and where my Johnny is going to be with Him forever."
Very soon, little Johnny is dead. His life on earth is over, but he had trusted in the Lord Jesus and so enters Heaven.
Within a couple of years of the publication of the novel, William Bradbury had set the words to music - and added the chorus: "Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so."
The hymn was sung by men on both sides of the American Civil War.
It was after hearing this hymn sung that Amy Carmichael, later a missionary in India, was converted. She had from earliest days understood that the Lord Jesus loved her, but as she heard fellow pupils sing this chorus, she understood that she needed to respond to His love. She did so by confessing her sin, by believing that He had died on the Cross for her and by asking Him to become her Lord and Saviour.
Over the years, amendments have been made and new verses added. In many hymnbooks, the final verse appears like this:
“Jesus loves me - He will stay, Close beside me all the way, If I love Him, when I die, He will take me home on high.”
There is a place called Heaven. Its gates must remain closed to all who die unsaved, all who die in their sins, but they are open to receive all who in their life loved the Lord Jesus and placed their trust in Him.
What a story! Four verses in an old novel that have become a chorus known world-wide. What significance! In them, the message of the Bible delightfully summarised. Through them, multitudes richly blessed. Read the words. Consider the words. Treasure the words – and trust in the Lord Jesus. Then you will be able to sing not just off by heart, but from the heart:
"Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so."