Trembling at the Thought

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

One of my favorite Holy week songs is called Were You There. In addition to being a Good Friday staple, the song has been popularized by many recording artists throughout the years. No doubt many of us will be humming the melody of the song in our heads as we think of it.

I have always believed that the song was intended to get me thinking about my own sin. This was the cause of Jesus’ suffering after all. I imagined myself standing there as they “nailed him to the cross”, recognizing that he was taking on a penalty that I myself deserved. This is certainly reasonable to consider, but there is more to the story.

Were You Therewas likely written by African people who were enslaved in America in the 1800’s, which gives an entirely new dimension to the song. The perspective would have been standing in awe at the fact that the savior of the world would join with them in their own suffering. In the midst of their own oppression they remembered that Jesus was also oppressed. While later versions of the song inserted the idea of the empty tomb into the final verse, the original conclusion was that the “sun refused to shine”. The final thought is the darkness that often accompanies suffering.

If we really want to consider what it would be like, had we been there, this is probably the right place to conclude the song. Darkness. Sadness. Oppression. Suffering. On Friday night when Jesus was crucified, there was no empty tomb in view.

In a few days, we’ll remember the crucifixion at our Good Friday service by considering this “cup” that Jesus was given to drink. As you prepare your heart this week, don’t gloss over the darkness of that moment. Don’t miss that God himself had to share so deeply in our suffering that it would cause even the oppressed to tremble! tremble! tremble!

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?