I have so many memories of this song as I have been performing it for years. I first heard it back in the early 80’s when I was just coming to the Lord. I got my hands on a Tennessee Ernie Ford gospel cassette that literally changed my life. I had never heard music like this: religious (as I called it back then) music with so much passion, heart and conviction.
I remember hearing Were You There and weeping. I did not know it at the time but it was, as a friend recently pointed out, the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The writer (and Mr. Ford) called out to me asking if I had witnessed the atrocity of that fateful day: the nailing to the cross, the sun disappearing from the sky, the burying of Him in a tomb, and of course, the glorious resurrection!
I had previously been exposed to “Jesus stories” but nothing resonated with me more than this aggressive assault on our personal responsibility in the coming of and ultimate sacrifice of our Lord.
Singers tire easily of performing the same songs over and over. I am guilty of that but not with Were You There. Each evening when it’s time to begin asking the hard questions, I see a tall mountain that I must climb. My Golgotha to be exact. It’s impossible for me to recount these events without reliving them and the process of my own salvation simultaneously.
And the anger! Oh, there is so much anger! Why did we, the human race, set the stage for so much unnecessary drama and suffering? Why could we not be content living with God in the first place? Why do so many of us reject the provision of Christ? Why do so many of us “christians” make a mockery of it by our foolish and hateful example?
Don’t we owe it to Jesus to be amazing? Mention that to a group of believers that have been deceived into seeing God as some sort of Saint Nick and they’ll happily lead you to your own cross.
I love reminding people-believers and unbelievers alike-that once upon a time a man who was God took responsibility for an entire race of selfish, hateful, ungrateful, irresponsible, godless sinners so that He could restore them to right relationship with their Creator, their Maker, their Father.
I may take too much glee in pointing out our shortcomings yet it is nothing compared to the celebration in my heart to the outcome provided by my perfect God…
Were you there when He rose from the grave?