I found the song's tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., to be inspiring, even if I were unable to understand a few lines. Most confusing was the stanza:
One man caught on a barbed wire fenceNow the song just kind of throws out references to Jesus and/or King, and doesn't really warn you which is coming when.
One man he resist
One man washed on an empty beach.
One man betrayed with a kiss
Let's take the lines in order of easiness to figure out:
- #4: Jesus was obviously betrayed by a kiss, by Judas "on the night in which he was betrayed".
- #1: This can be a generic reference to suffering at the hands of the military: obviously Jesus on the cross, but maybe also King & segregation.
- #2: Jesus, he resist; King, he resist.
- #3: Washed on an empty beach. Who??
The "CADRE" discussion reminds us that Jesus pointed to his death and resurrection as the "sign of Jonah".
"Then some of the scribes and pharisees said to him, "Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you." He said to them in reply, "An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the Sign of Jonah the prophet. Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights." (Matthew 12: 38-40).So, one man washed on an empty beach could be a reference to the story of Jonah, which is a reference to Jesus' death and resurrection.
For decades now, I'd sang the song with great emotion, and just kind of assumed that it meant something inspiring, but never exactly quite how or why. Now I know.