This Hymn Asks Our Presence During Jesus's Death and Rebirth 1Photo credit: Youtube

“Were You There (When They Crucified my Lord)” is a hymn that was first published in 1899. This spiritual tune can be found in William Barton’s Old Plantation Hymns (1899). It is believed that the 19th-century African-American slaves composed the song. After more than four decades, the tune was included in the Episcopal Church hymnal. That makes it become the first spiritual to be enlisted in any major American hymnals. Meanwhile, author and philosopher Howard Thurman’s autobiography mentions Mahatma Gandhi considers the song his favorite. Over the years, many artists have performed and recorded the hymn. Among them were Johnny Cash, Marion Williams, Phil Keaggy, Diamond Rio, and many others.

A Few Thoughts About the Song

While the song’s title may be stated in an interrogative sentence, it’s message is actually an invitation. It is an encouragement for us to consider ourselves present when Jesus was crucified on the cross. None of us at present have really witnessed this critical moment in the life of Christ. But with this song, we become one of those witnesses who trembled when they nailed Him on the cross.

Removing the elements of geographical distances and time, we become part of that great body who wept for Jesus.  Our trembling and our tears have brought us all together. Beyond that, our strong belief as to why our Lord had to die on the cross made us united.

Now, let’s be one in spirit with Johnny Cash and The Carter Family as we sing this unifying hymn.

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