Bach’s St. John Passion: A Musical Sermon

Posted December 19, 2015

CBC mobile hero St. JohnThrough Your prison, Son of God,
must freedom come to us;
Your cell is the throne of grace,
the sanctuary of all the righteous;
for if you had not undergone servitude,
our slavery would have been eternal.
— Chorale #17 from Bach’s St. John Passion

The proclamation of the Gospel is awe-inspiring in itself where we only begin to understand the love Christ has for us. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is the ultimate demonstration of His abundant love for us, yet we can never fully comprehend the magnitude of that love.

For centuries, composers have been setting the Gospel’s accounts of Christ’s final week on earth in an attempt to musically enhance His precious sacrifice. Passion music is not only a musical representation of the agony and suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ, but also a divinely inspired artistic medium upon which we can reflect. The predominant theme throughout Passion music was to explore the emotional profundity of the Passion through music.

Johann Sebastian Bach composed the St. John Passion in 1724 for Good Friday worship services. Bach has been regarded as much a theologian as he was a musician, and his purpose for composing wasn’t for personal gain, but to use his gifts in a way that would exalt our Lord and lead others to Christ.

During this time, performances of Passions were not treated as concerts or entertainment, but rather as the Gospel reading for worship services. A sermon was delivered to the congregation between the two halves of the work. Bach’s intention wasn’t just to create a masterpiece of music that corresponded with the Gospel reading, but more so an expressive portrayal of Christ’s suffering and love.

The St. John Passion incorporated a variety of texts in which the biblical portions narrate the Passion of Christ as told in the Gospel of John, and the poetic texts in the chorales reflect upon the Gospel. The chorales were well-known hymns to the congregation and allowed them to enter more fully into the devotional spirit by meditating upon the preceding scene.


Arizona Bach Festival 2016
Passion According to St. John
Friday, January 15 at 7:30 pm
CBC Sanctuary
For tickets visit

Our Sanctuary Choir will have the wonderful opportunity to sing the chorales from the St. John Passion in January of 2016 as part of the centerpiece concert of the 2016 Arizona Bach Festival. The Arizona Bach Festival contacted Camelback to participate because they knew we believe in the deep teaching of the Word and our hearts for Christ — the essential elements by which we can truly express the meaning of the Gospel and share Christ’s love with others.

And so, our choir will sing with great passion what we, the CBC congregation, believe — that God so loved the world that He gave His son.

In Christ,


For more event information, click here.

Written by Luke Lusted - Website

Born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Luke first felt God's call to lead and serve in the music ministry of the local church while pursuing his Bachelor's degree at Louisiana Tech University. He earned his Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees at the University of Arizona. While Luke has served in numerous professional capacities including Artistic Director of a large choral organization, chorister in professional choirs, and composer and clinician for schools and churches across the country, his heart is pastoring and using his gifts to glorify Christ and His kingdom.


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