FAQ :: Jesus & Sade for Good Friday

“I’m gonna sing when the Spirit says sing. And obey the Spirit of the Lord.”
– Traditional

“I only make records when I feel I have something to say. I’m not interested in releasing music just for the sake of selling something. ”
– Sade Adu

What is Good Friday?

Good Friday is the day of the year when Christians turn their attention to the human suffering and divine sacrifice of Jesus on the day of his execution by the Roman Empire.  It is observed every year on the Friday before Resurrection Sunday (Easter) to commemorate the day Jesus was crucified.  Good Friday is a time for believers to contemplate and reflect on the purpose and meaning of Jesus’ crucifixion over 2,000 years ago and for today.

What are the Seven Last Words of Jesus?

The Seven Last Words of Jesus, or the Seven Sayings of Jesus on the Cross, are the seven last sayings of Jesus before his death as recorded in the four New Testament Gospels.   The order of the “words” is:

  1. Father forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)
  2. Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43)
  3. Woman, behold your son: behold your mother. (John 19:26-27)
  4. My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34)
  5. I thirst. (John 19:28)
  6. It is finished. (John 19:30)
  7. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. (Luke 23:46)

More information on Good Friday/Seven Last Words, see African American Lectionary: Good Friday.

Why the music of Sade?

Since the early 1980’s, Nigeria-born and British-raised Helen Folasade Adu and her band have created music that explores the layered meanings of life in love. Blending pop, jazz, reggae, R&B and soul into sounds all their own, Sade has given voice to the joy, disappointment, hurt and, ultimately, strength we find in the power of love.

The strivings in Sade’s music aren’t merely “secular,” but also “sacred.” Expressed throughout her musical catalog is a search for divine meaning and purpose, seeking God for direction, healing and justice.

In “Slave Song” from Lovers Rock, Sade quotes Jesus (Matthew 7:12) and prays to God for strength not to imitate her racist oppressors:

I pray to the Almighty
Let me not to him do,
As he has unto me.

Echoing James 5:4, “Feel No Pain” from Love Deluxe, calls profane an oppressive economic system that exploits its workers:

There’s nothing sacred
Breathing hatred
We have to face it.

In Soldier of Love‘s title track, through a series of life challenges, she vows to continue the “good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12):

I’m at the borderline of my faith,
I’m at the hinterland of my devotion
In the frontline of this battle of mine
But I’m still alive.

Through this lens, perhaps, we can gain greater appreciation for Sade’s music when she sings about a heavenly angel leading her to her lover, believing in a love that is stronger than pride or an extraordinary love that continues to cry and try and last through good and bad times. The love Sade sings about is not mere sentimentalism, but is holy, sacred and eternal. Therefore, it is more than appropriate to recall the love of Jesus expressed through his sayings on the cross with the music of Sade. A Good Friday Worship experience that melds these worlds is then an effort to, as Professor Robert Beckford writes, “bring together the implicit politics of the church hall and the explicit politics of the dancehall.” The sayings of Jesus from the cross speak loudly to the call to love and justice and Sade’s music helps us hear Jesus’ words anew.

Good Friday is not a night of celebration, but lamentation. Like many freedom fighters throughout human history, Jesus’ crucifixion was state-sanctioned violence to intimidate and discourage his movement of salvation and liberation for all God’s children.

In The Cross and the Lynching Tree, Dr. James H. Cone reminds us that at the heart of the Christian story is in the tension of a crucified savior.  Cone writes, “That paradox was particularly evident in the first century when crucifixion was recognized as the particular form of execution reserved by the Roman Empire for insurrectionists and rebels.”

Jesus’ rebellion embodied the radical notions that there should be good news for the poor, that prisoners should be freed, that the blind should see and the oppressed will be set free (Luke 4:18-19).

In the tradition of the Negro Spirituals (Were You There When they Crucified My Lord?, Go Down Moses, etc), Sade’s music, boldly gives us songs of lamentation (Feel No Pain) with psalms of bold conviction (Soldier of Love) that challenge us to stand together against “powers and principalities” that thwart the reign of God.

In Power in the Blood?: The Cross in the African American Experience, Dr. JoAnne Marie Terrell writes, “Jesus’ experience of betrayal, imprisonment, torture and death pre-figures the experience of black humanity in the legal constructs of the antebellum slavocracy, postbellum socioeconomic and political conditions and in postmodernity.” In other words, Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion parallel the suffering the most vulnerable among us encounter today.  We suffer from mass incarceration, gun violence, forced migration, poverty, unemployment and police and government corruption just as Jesus did over 2,000 years ago and Sade sings about today.  The question for followers of Jesus is whether we, too, will stand together as “the least of these,” going onward as Christian soldiers of love.