The last few weeks the melody of the old spiritual “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” has been echoing in my mind and heart. Its words haunt me.
My emotions this Lenten season verge closer to solemn sadness when I ponder how much Jesus suffered.
I realized how often I want to jump over these verses of the Bible and rush into the celebration of Easter morning.
I missed the lessons in the whip, the crown of thorns, the ridicule, the horror of the cross and the silence of Holy Saturday.
So I trudge through Bible verses I normally skim. I pause and listen to their rawness. I sit amazed at his forgiveness and defeat of death and sin.
My answer to the question – Were You There When They Crucified My Lord? – is, well at least I am closer now than before.
This hymn originates from the African-American slaves in the early 1800s. The lyrics reflect the terrors the slaves endured. Full of emotion I think we all “tremble” as we sing it and realize the reality of Jesus’ death and suffering. And it ends with hope with the resurrection but not before we endure the piercing of the nails, the darkness of death and the cold silent tomb.
“Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”
This song sticks with me because of who Jesus is and what he did for me. This is called the Passion of Christ because of his deep love, compassion for us to take the risk of giving his all for humanity. The words remind me of his suffering for everyone, including those I ignore, dislike or avoid. I too carry a responsibility for the brokenness of the world and the tears of others.
Were You There When They Crucified My Lord? implies standing/staying near the cross. Being right there. Allowing the emotions of the season – the trembling, the tears, the terror of it all – to crush my self-indulgent, ego consumed life and come empty, naked, vulnerable into Jesus’ love, mercy and forgiveness as our Savior.
I am staying close to the entire Holy Week story this year. I am lingering near the cross. And I am thankful to know God is there too – in my fear, my sin, my trembling.
How are you preparing your heart for Holy Week?