Selah Meditation Moment

A Word from Pastor Croft

Sunday began what we refer to as Passion or Holy Week. It is the week in which the Christian world begins its commemoration of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. It marks Jesus' final journey to Jerusalem, his triumphant entry, his increasing encounters with his enemies, the Last Supper with the disciples, his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, his betrayal by Judas, his arrest and abandonment, Peter’s denial, his trial and conviction before Pilate, his crucifixion, with all this culminating in the resurrection of Christ the Lord.

Sight & Sound Theaters (located in Lancaster, PA and Branson, MO) will be streaming free, Easter weekend only, the stage production JESUS. They are allowing anyone, in celebration of Easter, to watch the production right in their living room or on their favorite device by downloading the TBN app. While we may not be able to gather together for Easter/Resurrection Sunday, Sight & Sound wants people to still experience the joy of celebrating the one who came to save us all.

I feel an obligation to be fully honest with you, in that Sight & Sound's presentation of JESUS is powerful but the portrayal is completely false. Jesus, nor his disciples were white. The historical Jesus, the man who was executed by the Roman State in the first century, was a brown-skinned, Middle Eastern Jew.

This is not controversial from a scholarly point of view, but somehow it is a forgotten detail for many of the millions of Christians who will gather to celebrate Easter this week. Does any of this matter? Yes! As a society, we are well aware of the power of representation and the importance of diverse role models. It should be important to every person of color to see Jesus as a person of color.

By negating Jesus’ true identity as a dark-skinned, oppressed minority, slaveholders were better able to justify the master-slave hierarchy. They displayed portraits of a white Jesus in order to get enslaved Africans to submit to them and the institution of slavery. The idea was, if enslaved Africans saw a white Jesus with power, with the color of their slave masters the enslaved would submit to their slave masters because the slave master bore Jesus' skin color. This Jesus represented whiteness, purity, and European superiority; a more Israeli-looking Jesus simply wouldn't have worked in the same way.

This Easter, I can’t help but wonder, what would our church and society look like if we just remembered that Jesus was a man of color? If we were confronted with the reality that the body hung on the cross was a brown body: one broken, tortured, and publicly executed by an oppressive regime. I can’t help but wonder what might change if we were more mindful that the person Christians celebrate as God in the flesh and Savior of the entire world was not a white man, but a Middle Eastern Jew.

His hair was like pure wool, according to the Book of Daniel. That means his hair was kinky. The Book of Revelations says his feet were like burnished bronze. That means he was brown-skinned. Jesus was a Palestinian Jewish man who, as a child was able to hide from the King of Judaea by spending years in Egypt, a place where people of color lived.

Now, does it really matter whether Jesus was a person of color or not? No, the fact is that he is the sinless Lamb of God that died for sinners and is the Savior of those who repent and trust in him. Jesus transcends race but if we are going to portray him lets portray him correctly. Why? Image is everything! So, if you choose to watch the stage production JESUS, do so with the correct images in mind.

Rev. Dr. Wayne E. Croft, Sr.

The Rev. Dr. Wayne E. Croft, Sr., serves as Pastor of the St. Paul’s Baptist Church in West Chester, PA. Prior to this assignment, he served The Church of the Redeemer Baptist in Philadelphia for a total of 20 years. Dr. Croft is the founder of the Redeemer Renaissance Community Development Corporation, a life member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., the former President of the NAACP West Chester Branch, and has been inducted into the Martin Luther King, Jr. Board of Preachers of Morehouse College.

He is also a prolific writer. The African-American Pulpit Journal published his sermons; The Promise Guaranteed, A Candidate for the Hall of Faith and his article entitled What Does it Mean to Preach Biblically Today. He is the author of the book Unexpected Calls to Unexpected Places, Pretty Poison: Seven Deadly Sins and The Motif of Hope in African American Preaching During Slavery and Post-Civil War: There’s A Bright Side Somewhere, and a forthcoming book in Fall 2020; A History of the Black Baptist Church: I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired. Dr. Croft is also a contributor to the books From One Brother to Another: Voices of African-American Men, Volume 2 and Athens & Oxford Sermons, Volume 10. He has published three articles in the Past Master section of Preaching Magazine; “John Jasper: Preaching with Authority”, “E. K. Bailey: Expositor of the Word” and “Gardner C. Taylor: Poet Laureate and Dean of Preachers”, “Charles E. Booth: A Preacher’s Preacher”, and book that chronicles his journey to serve as Pastor of the St. Paul’s Baptist Church. In June 2018 Dr. Croft was the morning lecturer at The Hampton University Ministers’ Conference, the largest gathering of interdenominational African-American clergy in the world.

Dr. Croft has served as Dean of the Pennsylvania Eastern Keystone Baptist Association. He has also served as the Assistant Professor of Homiletics and Liturgics at Palmer Theological Seminary of Eastern University in Philadelphia and now serves as The Jeremiah A. Wright, Sr. Associate Professor of Homiletics and Liturgics in African American Studies at United Lutheran Seminary at Philadelphia.

Dr. Croft has distinguished himself as a pastor, writer and scholar, having earned an Associate degree from Pinebrook Jr. College and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Trinity College earning a Bachelor of Arts. He received the Master of Divinity degree from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary (now Palmer Theological Seminary), Master of Theology degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and graduated with distinction from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey earning a Doctor of Ministry degree. He also earned a Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy degree from Drew. He is the first person to earn both a Doctor of Ministry and Doctor of Philosophy from Drew University and received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Villanova University in May 2018. Dr. Croft is married to Dr. Lisa L. Croft, a family physician and they have three children, Darlene, Wayne Jr., and Candace Nicole.

A talented writer and distinguished scholar Pastor Croft has written several books.

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