Suffering Servant

The essentially autobiographical “Go Tell it on the Mountain” allows the reader to examine and relate to the true thoughts and emotions that shaped Baldwin. Several elements draw distinct comparisons between James and Jesus the Messiah. To start, the book itself begins with the protagonist’s birthday. Although it isn’t his actual day of birth, his 14th birthday symbolizes his start of puberty and the beginning of his consciousness, manhood, and realization of who he is. This is very similar to the beginnings of two gospel stories in the Holy Bible that describe Christ’s nativity and “birth”. Furthermore, both Jesus and the protagonist are assisted by a “Gabriel”. In Jesus’ case, the angel Gabriel came down to tell Mary, Jesus’ mother, that she would have a divine child. He delivered the news that out of her virginity, she would give birth to a child of the Lord. In class, we studied a marble statue that interpreted the concept of Gabriel’s delivery of the message that Mary would be impregnated with the seed of God. Gabriel was the messenger that predicted Jesus. In “Go Tell it on the Mountain,” Gabriel is portrayed as a stepfather, and while his seed did not produce the protagonist, his urging of John to embrace Christianity and get saved, allowed John to become the person he would be. John’s desire to please his family and follow in the ways of God truly shapes his thoughts and motivations. However, because he never truly feels the spirit that he anticipates coming when giving oneself to God, he views Christianity from a removed, third-person view. This enables him to recognize and speak about the hypocrisies. James Baldwin uses this knowledge and vantage to apply to his analysis of Black Americans. Additionally, in the biography of James Baldwin that was studied in class, it was only because James had been “saved” that his stepfather allowed him to stay in high school and cultivate his academic prowess. Without his education, he would not have the tools necessary for success. Lastly, both Jesus and Baldwin suffered for their beliefs and for the salvation of others. The Christian understanding is that Jesus suffered for our sins. The suffering element is important as humility is found in the time spent suffering. While Christ had to suffer, he did so to testify for humanity’s sins and to save them. Throughout the story, it is clear that John is suffering. Whether it is his sexuality, the sin of his masturbation, his treatment from his father, his outward appearance, Christianity in general, and his ideas of white people, John is constantly in turmoil. But “John” endures this in order to be able to testify for his people. Without the struggle and experiences of his childhood, he would not have been prepared to speak with credibility about the lives of Black people in his adulthood. His road destined him for service to others.