Franciscan Sisters Spotlight Jesus Wept by Ralph McTell

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April 02, 2020

Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity spotlight Ralph McTell’s song Jesus Wept in our current situation. It is a modern, folk hymn built on the phrase from John 11:35, the shortest verse in the Bible. If you had a chance to write a verse, what would you include?

Ralph McTell recently updated his hit Streets of London by adding a verse on the coronavirus. Click here to read about this creative moment at this time of ‘being in this together’. He is an English singer-songwriter and acoustic guitar player who has been an influential figure on the UK folk music scene since the 1960s. McTell is best known for this song which has been covered by over two hundred artists around the world, and for his tale of Irish emigration, “From Clare to Here”



The day that Jesus arrived in Jerusalem,
The adventure almost over, that night he hadn’t slept
Dreams and premonitions made him tired and emotional,
And that’s why Jesus wept.

He wasn’t scared of dying, he’d made that commitment
Fulfilling the old prophecy, his bargain he had kept
He was due some satisfaction, but he was deeply troubled,
And that’s why Jesus wept.

Was this his true destiny, or could he still make changes,
Someone else’s nightmare into which he’d stepped?
Damage limitation couldn’t save the situation,
And that’s why Jesus wept.

In his dream he saw the crusade and all wars that would follow,
Declared in his name when he thought he’d been direct
Love thy neighbour, do not kill, and turn the other cheek,
And that’s why Jesus wept.

He saw the inquisition and the burning of the saints,
The conversion of the innocents he swore he would protect
He saw them bless the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima,
And that’s why Jesus wept.

Though Peter would betray him, he made him the rock
On which he would build his church to sort of keep him in his debt
A man about to die is allowed some confusion,
And that’s why Jesus wept.

He thought of his disciples, especially of Judas,
And the job that was ordained for him and the reward he’d collect
He saw him in the tree with the silver coins around him,
And that’s why Jesus wept.

Then he thought about the good times when he turned the tables over,
Chastised the money lenders and he earned the boy’s respect
He was proud of Godly anger, but ashamed of manly temper,
And that’s why Jesus wept.

Rumours started flying about water into wine,
Sight to the blind and that he’d even raised the dead
The biggest miracle was that everyone believed it,
And that’s why Jesus wept.

Then he mused on human nature, how fickle were the public,
So ready to accept him, so quick now to reject him
Where were the five thousand he fed with loaves and fishes?
And that’s why Jesus wept.

In his dream he saw a garden with all his friends asleep,
He walked away the hours until the morning crept
He wondered would the nails hurt, would he be man enough?
And that’s why Jesus wept.

Was he supposed to bear it like a man or like a God,
Would tears show a weakness or a strength by their effect?
Would they be viewed as compassion or failure and self-pity?
Ah that’s why Jesus wept.

Then he saw his houses burning on both sides of a border,
Saw the guilty suffer with the guiltless and the rest
And when they called his name and he knew he couldn’t help them,
That’s why Jesus wept.

Then he saw two armies marching and he heard their crucifixes
Reduced to muted superstition jangling round their necks
And he heard his name intoned as they lowered their companion,
And that’s why Jesus wept.

Then he thought about his mother and the stories she had told him,
Who’d filled his dreams with angels, put voices in his head
Then the scent of pine trees made him think of dear old Joseph,
And that’s why Jesus wept.


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