Yesterday, when I was trying to search the web for a soothing gospel song, I came across The Oakridge Boys’ rendition of a Johnny Rusell song, ‘The Baptism of Jesse Taylor’. Why the title caught my attention was a mystery, until I did a little bit of research about it. Part of my brain says I have already heard the song somewhere. I just have no idea when I heard it last. This blast on my brain led me to listen to it once again. And as I do, there it was flowing like a heavy river across my heart.
The Original versus My Favorite Version
The original version was that of Johnny Rusell, penned by Sanger D. Shafer. In the revival feels of ‘The Baptism of Jesse Taylor”, the narrator predicts that Jesse is sure to change his ways. This also took it to No. 14 on the country charts. It was later recorded by The Oak Ridge Boys and Tanya Tucker, which earned them the 1975 Grammy Award for Best Gospel Performance. This gospel song rejoices the dramatic change that happened in a man’s life when he finally submitted to Jesus. At one point, I found the words of the chorus striking.
“They baptized Jesse Taylor in Cedar Creek last Sunday
Jesus gained a soul and Satan lost a good right arm
They all cried hallelujah when Jesse’s head went under
‘Cause this time he went under for the Lord.”
What is God About in the Song?
For a while, I stopped and questions arose. Why did Jesus get a soul out of the deal? Is it saying that the devil lost a stubborn, dishonest, and vicious human being? If the devil lost a follower, did Jesus not possibly gain a good one? Why do we, too often, fail to think of God’s grace as a transformation in action? God is not about saving souls. God, therefore, is about bringing humans, no matter how imperfect we may seem, into unity with goodness.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
(2 Corinthians 5:17)
This kind of thoughts touches our words and the way we think about redemption. It moves us to enter a mentality where we consider our souls really important than that of our physical features. As long as we are with God, we have all the means to change our old wicked ways.
This, my friends, is my favorite version of the song, released in 2009, in their ‘A Gospel Journey’ album.