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28 Days of Black Movies: Every time I hear (and watch) ‘Now Behold The Lamb’ from ‘The Gospel,’ I get all teary-eyed

OPINION: The movie’s final scene and song really pulled at my heartstrings and had me ready to testify. 

I’m pretty sure I went to see The Gospel—the 2005 Will Packer-produced film starring Boris Kodjoe, Idris Elba and Black Cinematic GOAT Clifton Powell—in theaters. In 2022, The Gospel would be a Netflix Original and its release would be a social media event. Boris Kodjoe’s wardrobe alone would be worth a few thousand tweets and I’m not even joking; whoever styled him was either drinking or trying to get fired. I actually think Boris Kodjoe’s haircut inspired Tyler Perry’s entire wig fascination. 

Now it only matters that I went to see it in theaters because of the communal nature of watching movies where pivotal scenes happen—when there is a particularly moving scene, the whole crowd feels it together and reacts as one. That’s why I say I’m pretty sure I saw it in theaters because I remember the feeling of the scene where “Now Behold The Lamb” is sung in the movie and specifically when the young kid walks towards the pulpit to accept God into his life during the altar call. That scene moved me to tears. I was even moved by the scene of David at his father’s grave where he kept yelling for him and his Austrian accent crept out. 

The Gospel is an enjoyable movie that is probably mostly forgotten. I’m a superfan of Clifton Powell, so I tend to keep up with any and all of his films. He’s one of those actors who has been in too many films to count and still never gets his due. He’s in this movie, as Bishop Fred Taylor, the father to David Taylor (Kodjoe), the son who gave up God after the death of his mother and became a secular music artist. When David left Atlanta, Charles Frank (Elba) followed in Bishop’s footsteps and became a reverend. When David finds out his father is sick, he returns to Atlanta, setting off a chain of events that leads him back to the church and back to his friendship with Charles. 

Ego and ambition cause friction between David and Charles, former best friends, who are now grown men with very different ambitions in life. The whole movie is about the path of redemption for David and realization for Charles, and it all culminates with Charles in the pulpit, preaching a sermon about being lost in the wild but being found, and David returning to the church and giving himself back to God. In the background of the climactic scene is the choir singing the song, “Now Behold The Lamb.” Perhaps it’s because of the weight of the moment, but I cannot help but feel emotionally moved by the build-up of the song and the scene playing out. 

And I can’t help but be reminded of the feeling of actually being in church when you hear that song that is getting into your sha-na-na, some invisible force causing you to stand up and clap and sway. I had that feeling the first time I saw a choir perform “For Your Glory” by Tasha Cobb Leonard. Have you heard that song? It’s so packed with power that the spirit moves through your body whether you want it to or not. You couldn’t stop it if you tried. 

That’s the same feeling I get with “Now Behold The Lamb.” Perhaps whenever I hear it I envision the church scene from the movie so it gets my soul glowing. I know I’ve heard it performed in church before as well, and there ain’t nothing like a song that enables the soloist to get loose and go off. Also, the voiceover with Clifton Powell speaking really sets the song off. It’s like you’re being preached to but because the music is so intoxicating, you can’t even stop it. 

And you know what, that’s where I sit with the song even today. I rewatched The Gospel and when Tamyra Gray starts her solo, my whole soul felt like I had a testimony. Now, the only audience I had was my 1-year-old so any sharing I did was pretty much shared with God and God only. But still, sharing is caring. But then Clifton Powell starts talking while Tamyra is singing, and I mean, it’s like I’m getting a lesson and soul and the gospel and an opportunity to learn and be a better person, and I cannot lie, it’s like a sensory overload and my spirit is almost too full. That is the gospel. 

It got me today. And it will get me tomorrow; the God in the music is inescapable. 

Amen.

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest) but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said “Unknown” (Blackest).

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