The song really captures in words the bleakness and darkness surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The place of the crucifixion is characterized as “lone and grey.” Calvary is depicted as being “dark,” a stark contrast to the “blessed Lamb” lifted high upon it. Blackness slowly saturated the sky as “a darkness came down” while “the rocks went around.” Even the air is portrayed on an emotional level, being overburdened and “sad-laden.” “Death’s dark sting” pulsates through the veins of the Lamb of God.
The repeated stanza throughout the song highlights the purpose of Jesus’ death within its last couplet: “Jesus suffered and died/To redeem a poor sinner like me.” Boggs seems to be echoing the words of the Apostle Paul here, for Paul writes, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am foremost” (1 Tim. 1:15). Jesus did not die for sinners “out there” but for me the poorest and foremost of sinners. Furthermore, Jesus’ “Received death's dark sting/All to save us from endless despair.” For those who believe in Jesus, he has on their behalf “received death’s dark sting;” he has swallowed up death in victory leading Paul to exclaim, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting” (see 1 Cor. 15:54-55)? Yet “endless despair” awaits those who choose to receive within themselves “death’s dark sting” of sin and its power, the unattainable requirement of perfect obedience to the law (see 1 Cor. 15:56).
Finally, “Calvary” issues forth a call to remember the crucifixion of the blessed Lamb, and, by the internal work of the Spirit, to be genuinely moved by it. “Oh, it bowed down my heart/And the teardrops will start/When in memory all the grey hill I see.” Does the memory of the crucifixion bow down your heart? In other words, does it humble you down to the dust over which you tread; the dust of which you are made? Does the memory of the crucifixion elicit tears? Not tears of sorrow for that poor Galilean man, but tears of serious and solemn thankfulness. For we should have been on that tree, receiving the curse of God onward into eternity. But we have been redeemed by the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, that is, if we believe upon him and hold fast to our confession.
And our faith is not in vain, for “Behold, from the sod/Comes the blessed Lamb of God/Who was slain, but is risen again.”