Meeting The Real Jesus Black
Meeting the REAL Jesus
Jeff Fenholt was the original Jesus in the most successful Broadway hit ever: “Jesus Christ Superstar.” He sang the lead of Jesus on the Broadway cast album, which combined with the original album has sold 15 million double albums. His picture has appeared on the cover of Time magazine and in Life, Cosmopolitan, Vogue and other magazines. Jeff was also the lead vocalist for Black Sabbath. Since becoming a Christian he has toured with Nicky Cruz throughout Mexico, South and Central America. Jeff has also performed at the Full Gospel Business Men’s World Convention, Full Gospel Pastors’ Convention and Cops For Christ Convention, as well as churches and Christian high schools across the country.
I grew up in Ohio. It’s tough to talk about, but I suffered from child abuse.
I remember being locked up in an unfinished attic when I was three. I remember going to sleep and awaking at 2 o’clock in the morning with ice water being poured over my head. I also remember being beaten until I was nearly unconscious. I grew up filled with hate and violence.
I was a wild kid. Before I even reached my teens I was involved in theft, “breaking and entering,” and joy-riding in stolen cars.
My mother couldn’t handle it, so when I was twelve years old she called the police. She was going through a divorce and was hurting. I realized she was hurting. I loved my mother. I adored her, and knew she was in pain, but she called the police and said, “I can’t handle this kid. He’s incorrigible.”
So I was in Boy’s Industrial School and it was heavy. I’m telling you, everybody was looking at me like a bunch of vultures looking at a dying lamb. I couldn’t call out to anybody. It was tough.
During the next five years I was in and out of that place several times.
I had been in rock groups since I was 12 years old. That was my escape. Every time I wasn’t in “jail” I was doing rock-n-roll. I got my first hit record (called “Going Too Far”) when I was 15. It hit the top 40 in the United States and was number one in the Mid West. That was when I met my future wife, Reeni. I already had success. I was probably making $500-$1000 a week in high school by touring on weekends.
At 17 I left home and started college. I worked at truck docks at night and went to college during the day. But then I thought, “This is too rough,” so I went back into singing on weekends. I got picked up by the touring company of Hair to understudy the lead role for the summer.
I got signed to the CBS record company when I was 19 years old. I started thinking, “Maybe I won’t go back to college. I’ll keep rolling with this thing and go out and do concerts.”
While I was on tour with Hair in San Diego, California, I had just one night off. I was walking down the Street when this guy banged into me and then turned around and cussed me out. Well, we had a punch out right there. I didn’t get hurt, but when I continued on down the street I heard somebody preaching the Word of God. Now. I had never heard anyone speak the Word of God before so I was attracted to it. I walked up and listened. He said they were bringing a bus to his church and holding a service. Something touched me deep inside.
I remember when I was a kid in jail calling out to God, but I might as well have been calling out to the wallpaper because I didn’t know what it was. Every time I used to say, “God, get me out of here, deliver me from this,” it always seemed to come back void. I had been searching when this guy started speaking the Word of God so I went with him to his church. It was a Pentecostal church in San Diego.
I got on a bus with all these drunks, drug addicts, etc. When we got to the church the drunks were coming forward and accepting Jesus while the pastor was saying, “I want you to accept Jesus as your Saviour.” I was listening to all that was happening but the women who were speaking in tongues behind me were really weirding me out. I didn’t know what to think of what was going on.
It became obvious to me that this pastor was singling me out. I kept thinking, “This guy is not going to let me go until I accept Jesus, and the only way to get out of here is on the bus.” So, I started thinking about accepting Jesus just so I could go home. Finally I made a decision; Jesus is my Lord and Saviour. So I stood up and went forward. But as I knelt down, the pastor said, “Son, stand up. You’re not ready to accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. Look at you.” He handed me a book and said, “Take this book and read it. Come back in a week and if you still want to accept Jesus, I’ll let you.”
I was used to being on stage so I turned around and said, “I’m not taking this book because I am not a thief. If I took this book I’d be stealing it because I’m never going to set foot in this church again.” I threw the book down and walked out of the church. Not one person stopped me; not one person came to me I was filled with bitterness and despair. I was confused and hurt.
I hitchhiked back to the beach apartment which I’d leased for a month. When I walked in the lights were out. I got on my knees and I started to pray, and I was broken. I had learned to turn off love from my own mother and father. When a person does that he becomes cold. I never cried over anything, but that night I got on my knees and cried out to God.
I said, “Oh God, I wanted to accept You but they wouldn’t let me. I was in jail, I was beaten, I was abused and You delivered me. You gave me a gift of a voice. God, I don’t know You or Jesus. I don’t know what this is about, and I don’t have anything to offer You. I’m a broken young man, but I give You my voice. You gave me the talent and I give it back.” It was the only thing I had to give.
As God is my witness, a light filled that room and a Presence came into the corner of that room that I’ve never experienced before. I became so frightened. I closed my eyes, gritted my teeth and bowed my head. A voice spoke inside me to my heart and said, “You are going to do the part of Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar, the production.”
I had heard about this show. The single had just come out and sold 2 million copies and people were starting to talk about it. It was rumored that it was going to be a big show.
My wife Reeni had become born again and I didn’t know it. Back in Ohio she had gotten the same thing at the same time in prayer.
I went to CBS in L.A. to meet with Paul Barotta, who was the Vice President of CBS, to talk about my album. But when I arrived Paul had gone to lunch for two hours and I had to wait. With time to kill, I went down the street and said, “What’s the commotion over here at this theater?” There were thousands of kids hanging out at the Aquarius Theater. I said, “What’s going on?” They said that they were holding auditions for a show, Jesus Christ Superstar. They had put out an open call.
To make a long story short, they flew me to New York. When I walked in to audition a homosexual came up to me. He had bright yellow hair and new wave wasn’t in yet. He said, “I’m the casting director and I want to see you for dinner tonight.” I said, “Oh no you ain’t.” I went back to my hotel room and the phone rang. It was the casting director. He said, “We’ve been considering you, we’ve decided against you. You’re free to go, get lost.” So, I got on a plane and flew out. I told Reeni I didn’t get the part. She said, “Jeff, the Lord spoke to my heart that you did get the part.”
On the third or fourth day the phone rang and a guy named Rick Gunnel called me from New York. He said, “We’ve been looking for you all over the world and have finally found you. Why did you go home?” I explained to him about the dinner and everything and he said, “Well, he will promptly be fired, but we want you here. You are doing the part of Jesus.”
We opened the show in Pittsburgh. Reeni and I couldn’t even go out for dinner in the cities where we played because people recognized me. Then, one night when I was getting ready to go on stage at Boston Gardens, I felt some evil presence take hold of me back stage. I mean it took hold of me hard. I got filled with fear and power at the same time. All sorts of fleshy things came up in me and I realized something had changed; something had consumed me and had taken charge of me back stage.
The stage manager came in and said, “Five minutes.” I looked him straight in the eye to see if he could see the change in me because I had felt this presence take hold. He didn’t see it but when I went out to go up to the stage the police dogs that were there to protect us attacked me. They sensed something was very wrong.
I went on stage. As I was standing in front of that audience a word came to me that I was going to have wealth and success and that the audience was like a lion. I was a lion tamer. When I cracked the whip they would jump through the hoop, and they would do what I wanted them to do.
This presence stayed with me for 9 years, morning, noon and night.
I went to Broadway to open the show in the fall of that year. When I did they put my picture on the cover of Time magazine. I was the centerfold in Vogue. I was the centerfold in Cosmopolitan magazine, Japanese magazine, etc. I read in Business Week that we brought in $36 million In six months of touring, and that didn’t even include the royalties from the record, The show was a huge success.
While I was on Broadway I kept dealing with this thing of Jesus every night, every night. I’ll tell you, some very disturbed people came back stage. One woman came to me, fell on her face and said, “Bring my husband back.” Her husband had died that day. I had a blind girl come back stage and tell me that while I was singing she could see what I was wearing and what everybody else was wearing. Yet, she said she had been blind from birth.
Let’s face it, Jesus was not the author of that stuff. But I had no armor, no shield. I hated Christians. To anybody who came to witness to me I’d say, “Get away from me.” I’d swear at them and call them names.
I had been drinking and taking so many drugs that I had gotten down to 128 pounds. I was partying night after night. One night my stomach hemorrhaged and I began to vomit blood. When I got to the hospital I had two pints of blood in my system. The doctor told Reeni that I needed a rest for six months so I pulled myself out of the Broadway show.
We went to our home in Long Island where I started just hanging out. I made a couple records, but stopped trying to work because I was so messed up on drugs. One night I beat my wife up so badly that I knocked her cold in the dining room of our home. In a drugged-out state I looked at her, smacked her a few times and said, “Come on, wake up.” She wouldn’t wake up and I thought she was kidding me.
We always had flowers in a big pot in the entrance foyer. I went and got the flowers out, took the pot over and dumped the cold water on her, She just laid there. I mean she was out. Do you want to know how demonic I was? I didn’t call the doctor. I didn’t take her to urgent care. I went upstairs and went to sleep.
The next day I started calling around trying to find her. “Where’s Reeni? Is she over at your house? Are you hiding her out?” Her friend said, “No you fool, she’s in the hospital.” I had hit her in the kidneys so hard it made her kidneys fail. She almost died but she kept praying for me. When she got out of the hospital she came back to the house. Can you believe that? She kept calling on Jesus and binding Satan.
We were having a wing on the house in Long Island remodeled. There were going to be construction crews there for six weeks. All the trucks had these Jesus stickers. I went up to Reeni and said, “What’s this, all these Jesus things?” She said, “Well, you got the estimates on what you wanted so I hired these guys and they are going to rebuild that wing on the house.” I said, “I want them out of here right now.” Reeni said to me, “Jeff, every time people come through the gates they triple the money. These guys gave us a good estimate and they won’t rip us off.” Now, that spoke to my heart. So I said, “Okay, I’ll let them work here.” I didn’t know that the contractor, Nick Dasipio, had a ministry of deliverance.
The Lord knew I had been crying to Him.
This guy Nick Dasipio later told me that he discerned when he walked into the house that there was a demonic presence there. I don’t know how he discerned that, there were only hospital blinds on all 52 windows so that it could look like midnight at 12 noon, candelabras everywhere and weird carvings of Jesus with his head cut off. My taste was very strange.
I woke up one day at the crack of noon, just like I always did, went down stairs, no shirt on, a lot of gold, baggy pants, boots, hair down to here, dyed bright blonde, etc. I was going to walk into that back room and talk to the workers like I talked to everybody. But when I walked into the room Nick looked at me and said, “You played the part of Jesus Christ. Now do you want to meet the real Jesus?”
I became so filled with fear and rage that I cussed him out. That was in the servants quarters and it had a swinging door. I tried to back through the swinging door, missed it, and hit the wall.
It knocked the wind out of me: That’s how hard and fast I was backing up from him. That was what the spirit was doing to me. The spirit of Satan. So I ran out of there and went to the furthest part of the house I could get to, which was the master bedroom, upstairs. I locked five different doors to get there. There, in the dark, I was shaking. The Lord was dealing with me. Finally, I made myself go back downstairs. I walked in and said to the workers, “I will not accept Jesus, but if you want to pray for me, you can pray for me.”
They dropped their hammers, jumped down and laid hands on me speaking in tongues. I hit the deck. I felt a weight come off of my back like the weight of the world. It was as if my back opened up and an anvil was lifted out of it.
I said, “If this is Jesus, I want to accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour.” I knelt right there and accepted Jesus as my Saviour. They took me right down to the beach and baptized me.
After that I had a thirst for the Lord, but I had a lot of problems. All my friends were drug addicts and rock-n-rollers and it was hard for me to give them up. Also, there were areas of unforgiveness in my life. The Lord had miraculously delivered me from drugs and alcohol, but deep-seated bitterness was a hard thing for me to work through.
At the same time, there was a tremendous spiritual war for my will. I had a great difficulty surrendering a lot of things, and money was a big one. I figured the only way I could make money was in secular rock music. But while making my first rock album after coming to the Lord, my best friend, Felix Papilardi, was murdered. Two days before I had witnessed to him and he had rejected Christ. Now he was dead.
I then tried to make money by investing in “Christian investments” and was severely ripped off twice. The Lord showed me that I had put my faith and trust in other men instead of Him. But once again I panicked, and headed back to making a living in the world of secular rock music.
So guess who called me first? Black Sabbath. I accepted the offer and was the group’s lead vocalist from January to June of 1985, all the while thinking I could be a “light in the darkness.” It didn’t work.
Finally, I came to the point where I said, “Okay, I’ve been in the biggest rock groups in the world, but I can’t get blessed in these groups anymore because I’m not the same spirit.” At that point I wasn’t getting blessed in Christianity either because I hadn’t gone completely into it. I was like a donkey standing between two bales of hay starving to death because he wouldn’t make the choice.
So I said to myself, “Either you go all the way into the world and forget Jesus, or you’re going to go all the way with Jesus,” It took about 1/lOth of a second to decide: I could not live one minute without my Saviour.
I reached deep into my past and began to really forgive. With Jesus’ help I forgave my mother, my father, and everyone who had ever hurt me.
Recently the incredible power of Christ’s forgiveness and compassion has led me into a whole new ministry to those who have also suffered abuse or have been bound by bitterness, violence or drugs.
I don’t sing rock music anymore. I’ve now surrendered everything to the Lord and sing only His praise. As a result, the windows of heaven have flown open! God has abundantly blessed my ministry (Messiah Ministries) more than I could have ever imagined. He is even leading me into a worldwide ministry of healing and deliverance with youth, helping them to meet the real Jesus!
Costa Mesa, CA 92628-9949
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