The man in black is now wearing white

Johnny-CashI confess to being a huge fan of Johnny Cash. I’ve got many of his albums, but I never got to see him perform live. A couple of years back, Tex Perkins’ The Man in Black: The Johnny Cash Story came to the Canberra Theatre. It was so good! It was fitting that someone would do a cover version of his story and songs, because Cash had recorded some of of the most amazing covers ever performed. This afternoon, the same friend who got me those tickets, sent me this clip of Cash performing on the Jools Holland Show in 1994. I loved it – the music, the man, and his message!

Cash had a blemished life, to say the least. He knew how to make a mess of himself and the people around him. He understood drugs and depression and divorce. He understood and was open about his sin. He knew that the one he’d hurt most of all was God himself. On this clip he speaks of his sin, but he also speaks of redemption. He says without redemption he wouldn’t be here. Cash spoke of redemption as more than a fresh start. It wasn’t simply getting his life back on track. He knew a hope beyond this life through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Cash knew these truths from Scripture:

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.
(Ephesians 1:7)

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the tree [cross], so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.”  (1 Peter 2:24)

Jesus said: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  (John 15:5)

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.  (Revelation 22:14)

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb [Jesus].”  (Revelation 7:9-10)

Cash’s song is dripping with images of redemption. He focuses on Jesus, the one who hung upon the tree, paying the price for his sin with his own blood, redeeming him from captivity to sin, and grafting him into his vine. Johnny Cash looked to Jesus for help and hope and life forever. What Cash longed for and sang about, he now experiences in all its fulness. The man in black is now wearing the white robe of redemption.

Redemption is an extraordinary gift from God. No matter what we’ve done, no matter what we’ve become, God wants to buy us back. He wants us to know the freedom that comes from relationship with him. It wasn’t easy for God. It cost Jesus his life. The events of that first Easter are testimony to the amazing long-suffering generous forgiveness of God. I love listening to Cash sing the songs of redemption – and he sings many – but even more, I love enjoying the privilege of being redeemed. One day I hope to thank Jesus for what he did. And one day I hope to thank Johnny Cash for singing about it.

Redemption by Johnny Cash

From the hands it came down
From the side it came down
From the feet it came down
And ran to the ground

Between heaven and hell
A teardrop fell
In the deep crimson dew
The tree of life grew

And the blood gave life
To the branches of the tree
And the blood was the price
That set the captives free

And the numbers that came
Through the fire and the flood
Clung to the tree
And we’re redeemed by the blood

From the tree streamed a light
That started the fight’
Round the tree grew a vine
On whose fruit I could dine

My old friend Lucifer came
Fought to keep me in chains
But I saw through the tricks
Of six-sixty-six

And a small inner voice
Said, “You do have a choice”
The vine engrafted me
And I clung to the tree

And the blood gave life
To the branches of the tree
And the blood was the price
That set the captives free

And the numbers that came
Through the fire and the flood
Clung to the tree
And we’re redeemed by the blood

Johnny Cash Redemption

2 thoughts on “The man in black is now wearing white”

  1. I understand it was Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

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