If you haven’t heard of Tim O’Brien, allow me to introduce you to him.  He’s an extraordinary—wish I had a better word—bluegrass musician.  I highly recommend his Chameleon (2008).

“Father Forgive Me,” from that same album, gives a twist to Judas’ betrayal of Jesus:

Here’s a little story and it goes like this
Jesus betrayed by Judas’ kiss
Jesus needs him don’t you see
In the midnight garden of agony
The midnight garden of agony

He says there’s a job I gotta do
And I’m gonna need a little help from you
If I’m gonna free this world from sin
Somebody gonna have to turn me in
Somebody gonna have to turn me in

O’Brien changes the typical story of betrayal to one of cooperation.  Jesus enlists Judas in his divine conspiracy to redeem sinners.  Obviously, this version of the story is aberrant from the biblical account, but don’t let that keep you from hearing O’Brien’s overall message.

He proceeds with three other analogous narratives.  In a personal anecdote, he mentions unsuccessfully auditioning for a band.  The band was known for its carousing ways; so, O’Brien is glad for the failed audition:  “Well it’s just as well, I might have died.”

Analogous narrative two focuses on a bee, which’s enjoying a flower.  It turns out that the moment with the flower is his “finest hour.”  Why?  The bee is “just suckin’ up nectar for the queen.”

The final narrative consists of a love story.  Reflecting upon first meeting his romantic interest, O’Brien says he couldn’t know “how big” this love would become.  He concludes, “Who knew how far love could go / And where it ends we’ll never know.”

What do all four narratives have in common?  Here’s the chorus that ties them together:

Father forgive me I never knew
I never saw that comin, no I never do
I bow my head and I say your name
I’m just a pawn in a bigger game
I’m just a pawn in a bigger game

Our actions have consequences of which we are often unaware.  These consequences are so surprising that it seems someone else’s purposes are being achieved in our actions.

Now that, Christians, ought to sound very biblical to us.  From the wicked actions of Joseph’s brothers (Gen 50:20) to the legal sentencing inflicted upon Jesus (Acts 4:8-12), God orchestrates the affairs of the world for his saving purposes.

I don’t think “Father Forgive Me” is a theological discourse.  The arrangement of the verses suggests that the narratives about Jesus, O’Brien’s audition, and the bee tell us something about the love story.  That initial conversation with a lover has consequences of which we were unaware, consequences that are still unfolding.

Still, it’s interesting that a song some might dismiss for its unbiblical Jesus-Judas narrative ends up, at least in the fringes of, biblical orthodoxy.

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