Thursday, April 17, 2014

It's Black Jesus, Part Four -- The Last Supper

This is an African-American print of the DaVinci classic. Beautiful, isn't it? Click here to get yours.

Today is known to many Christians as Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday.  Everybody's got a theory on this one but most scholars think that the word maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum, the first word of the statement Jesus made to his disciples as he explained why he washed their feet.

Latin: Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos. 
Translation: A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you.

Here's more Black Jesus -- Christ washing the feet of the Apostles. Icon of Pskov school (school of late medieval Russian icon and mural painting), 16th century. I suppose this explains why Eastern Europeans and  Soviets don't have a problem with images of Black Jesus. 

On Holy Thursday, everything takes a very serious turn.  Jesus washes the feet of the disciples, then celebrates the Passover Feast with them in an upper room in Jerusalem and has the first Communion. Somewhere in there -- probably before the dishes are cleared from the table -- the disciples argue over their rank and greatness (huh?) while Judas skips off to betray Jesus to the Jewish authorities and Peter declares his undying loyalty (“Lord, I’m ready to go with you, both to prison and to death!”), with Jesus promptly putting him in check. (“I tell you, Peter, the rooster won’t crow today before you have denied three times that you know me.”)

Jesus goes to The Mount of Olives with the disciples to pray, they eventually get ambushed by Judas and the horde he brought with him -- high priests, officers of the temple guard and the elders -- and after betraying him with a kiss (yeesh!) Jesus is taken away to the high priest's house, where his trial begins. 

The Bible says that when Peter finally denies Jesus, he runs away and cries uncontrollably. Selah.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

It's Black Jesus, Part Three - Silent Wednesday

Most of us know this already. For the rest of you that choose to ignore the obvious, I'm gonna tell it to you, anyway: Jesus Christ was not of European ancestry.  There, I said it.

To quote theologian James Cone about the Black Jesus:
“The ‘raceless’ American Christ has a light skin, wavy brown hair, and sometimes – wonder of wonders – blue eyes. For whites to find him with big lips and kinky hair is as offensive as it was for the Pharisees to find him partying with tax-collectors. But whether whites want to hear it or not, Christ is black, baby, with all of the features which are so detestable to white society.”
Most Europeans are much more familiar with Black Jesus than Americans, in part because his image resonates throughout much of their artwork. This one is from a church in Rome and dates from AD 530.

Today is called Silent Wednesday because the Bible doesn't say much of anything about what Jesus did today. After yesterday's hi-jinks, I can only imagine that the good Lord and the rest of his folk slept in.  I know I would.

Today's Bonus: The Boy Who Painted Christ Black. Directed by Bill Duke and featuring Wesley Snipes and that 80s staple Jasmine Guy, this 30 minute movie is based on a short story by John Henrik Clarke.

If you'd like to read the story, click here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It's Black Jesus, Part Two: Long Day at The Mount of Olives

This is a portrait of what Jesus might actually have looked like -- based on a first century skull (and Jesus' African-Asiatic bloodlines) by medical artist Richard Neave for Jesus: The Complete Story.

Yesterday Jesus went to his house of worship and saw that it had become a marketplace -- so he literally braided a whip and cleaned house. What in the world happened today?

After he and his associates pass that fig tree, they go back to the Temple, where Jesus is confronted by the religious leaders who try to ensnare him in some sort of an argument that will create an opportunity for his arrest.  After he flummoxes them and chews them out, he gives them the slip and leaves the city for the Mount of Olives, where -- prompted by the disciples casually admiring the Temple's architecture -- gives a prophesy on its destruction and then launches into what Biblical scholars call the Olivet Discourse, wherein he talks at length about the end times in parables.

This is also the day that Judas Iscariot negotiates with The Sanhedrin and makes arrangements to betray Jesus.

What a long, pivotal, exhausting day.

Matthew 24
Now Jesus left the temple and was going away. His disciples came to point out to him the temple buildings. He responded, “Do you see all these things? I assure that no stone will be left on another. Everything will be demolished.”

As Jesus predicted, the Temple was destroyed -- in 70 AD when the Romans torched it.  Apparently, the fire melted the gold in the Temple, which ran down into the cracks in the stone walls. Later, people searched for that gold, knocking over the stones to find any of it.

Interesting stuff.

I can't even begin to touch the history of this region with a stick -- and yet, a little history goes a long way...!

The Mount of Olives (it was covered with olive trees at one point, hence the name) is one of three mountain ridges -- Mount Scopus to the north and Mount of Corruption (or Mount of Offense) to the south -- located east of Jerusalem's Old City, in an area called The Valley of Jehoshophat.  The ridge isn't suitable for construction, so man-made burial caves were built.  A portion of the mount has been a necropolis for well over 3,000 years -- with an estimated 150,000 graves.  (A Jewish group is in the process of mapping every tombstone there.) Several Old Testament prophets are buried there. So is Absalom.

In Jesus day, Jerusalem was known as "the city of seven hills". Interestingly, so was Rome.

                                                           Arial photograph of the Mount of Olives

Today's Bonus is the TV documentary Jesus: The Complete Story.

                                               Volume 1: The Beginnings

                                               Volume 2: The Mission

Monday, April 14, 2014

It's Black Jesus, Part One: Holy Week!

Now that Passover is upon (some of) us and Sunday is Easter, I'm celebrating Holy Week (or Passion Week) with a daily dosage of Black Jesus. Here's today's heady installment -- Jesus Goes to Church and Beats the Brakes Off of the Moneychangers.  (And no, I can't get enough of this picture.)

 Black Jesus and the Moneychangers

Matthew 21
12 Then Jesus went into the temple and threw out all those who were selling and buying there. He pushed over the tables used for currency exchange and the chairs of those who sold doves. 13 He said to them, “It’s written, My house will be called a house of prayer.  But you’ve made it a hideout for crooks.”

John 2
14 He found in the temple those who were selling cattle, sheep, and doves, as well as those involved in exchanging currency sitting there. 15 He made a whip from ropes and chased them all out of the temple, including the cattle and the sheep. He scattered the coins and overturned the tables of those who exchanged currency. 16 He said to the dove sellers, “Get these things out of here! Don’t make my Father’s house a place of business.” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written, Passion for your house consumes me.[a]

A little context is usually a good idea.

Jesus and his disciples were amongst the many thousands of pilgrims that came to Jerusalem from all over the world for Passover.  The pilgrims had to exchange their currency to pay the required annual temple tax of a half shekel. Only Tyrian shekels were accepted by the Temple officials because they contained more silver than other coins. Conveniently enough, the moneychangers were there to provide that service -- with a fee that was shared with the Temple priest.  No need to search for animals to make the required sacrifices in the Temple.  Merchants were there to sell them to the highest bidder.  These exchanges turned the Temple into a bustling market, of sorts -- not the holy sacred place that God intended.  Needless to say, Jesus was pissed.

Well, I suppose a handmade whip is one way to clear the decks. Interesting that this happened right after Palm Sunday, on the last week of Jesus' life on earth.

Today's Bonus: the Good Times' Black Jesus episode!

Here's some good news: Aaron McGruder is bringing Black Jesus to Adult Swim this year -- featuring Charlie Murphy, Corey Holcomb and yes, John Witherspoon.  I wonder what Fox News' Megyn "Jesus is white" Kelly will have to say about it.

Speaking of Megyn "...and Santa is white, too" Kelly, I leave you with a panel discussion that includes Tim Wise. It's so much fun to watch him go off, in part because the white people aren't expecting him to come off like a black Baptist preacher.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

It's Black Jesus -- on Palm Sunday!

I'm not a fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber or his musicals per se but I love Jesus Christ Superstar and I especially love this song Hosanna.

Here's a snippet of an interview with Mr. Webber discussing the beginnings of Jesus Christ Superstar.  Interesting that it was written as a rock album and they had never intended for it to be a musical. 

Here's the song in performance.


...and here's the song itself.


Hey Sanna Sanna Sanna Hosanna
Hey Sanna Hosanna
Hey JC, JC won't you smile at me?
Sanna Hosanna
Hey Superstar


Tell the rabble to be quiet, we anticipate a riot.
This common crowd, is much too loud.
Tell the mob who sing your song that they are fools and they are wrong.
They are a curse. They should disperse.


Hey Sanna Sanna Sanna Hosanna
Hey Sanna Hosanna
Hey JC, JC you're alright by me
Sanna Hosanna
Hey Superstar


Why waste your breath moaning at the crowd?
Nothing can be done to stop the shouting.
If every tongue were stilled
The noise would still continue.
The rocks and stone themselves would start to sing:


Hey Sanna Sanna Sanna Hosanna
Hey Sanna Hosanna

CROWD (alone)

Hey JC, JC won't you fight for me?
Sanna Hosanna Hey Superstar


Sing me your songs,
But not for me alone.
Sing out for yourselves,
For you are bless-ed.
There is not one of you
Who can not win the kingdom.
The slow, the suffering,
The quick, the dead.


Hey Sanna Sanna Sanna Hosanna
Hey Sanna Hosanna

CROWD (alone)

Hey JC, JC won't you die for me?
Sanna Hosanna Hey Superstar

Saturday, April 12, 2014

'Bye, Fred.

Fred Ho -- baritone saxophonist, composer, conductor, writer and activist -- rest in power.