Saturday, March 27, 2010

Jesus Christ Superstar

"Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone." John 6:15

On the eve of Holy Week, I often make it a point to revisit some of my favorite "Jesus movies," films that explore the life and passion of Jesus of Nazareth. This year, I took time to reflect on Jesus Christ Superstar (1973), based on the rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.

In some respects, Superstar is not just a commentary on the gospels - but a challenge to all Christians today, especially those in the midst of Holy Week celebration.

The central character narrating the events of the film is a thoughtful, introspective Judas Iscariot (Carl Anderson). This Judas sees that Jesus (Ted Neeley) is being made into a "superstar" by the people around him - from Mary Magdalene (Yvonne Elliman) to Simon the Zealot (Larry Marshall) - and it disgusts him.

This Judas is a good man who feels that, ironically, Jesus has betrayed his message of simplicity and purity by allowing such fanfare to take place around him.

Holy Week can be dangerous for me, too. In the excitement and fanfare of the liturgies this week leading up to Easter, I can sometimes forget what lies beneath all of these rites and rituals: the dangerous message of the gospel.

While Jesus speaks constantly through most the gospels, he is remarkably quiet during the passion narratives. One might even forget he said much of anything - focusing instead on the dramatic events rather than the reason these events had to take place in the first place.

Judas Iscariot in Superstar challenges me to wonder if my celebration of Holy Week and Easter is empty. Am I simply dancing around like Simon the Zealot without realizing what Jesus is all about?

So I am going to take a cue from Jesus himself. It was said of him, "Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone." (Jn. 6:15). This Holy Week (and hopefully beyond Easter Sunday too), I am going to find some quiet time to reflect and discern on the gospel message - not just the experiences - of Jesus of Nazareth.

What made him so revolutionary? What did he say? What was it about his teachings that were so controversial? Why was this Jesus so dangerous?

I'm going to spend some time with passages like the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7), the many parables, his encounters with women and foreigners (i.e. Jn. 4), and his warnings against corruption and injustice (Mt. 23-25). I'm going to explore what Jesus meant by the "Reign of God" and how he interacted with those most in need of mercy, compassion, and healing.

This Holy Week, Superstar has challenged me to look deeper at the reasons behind all the pomp and circumstance - and what made Jesus Christ a "superstar" in the first place.

I pray that, you, too, will get a quiet moment this week for a worthwhile experience of prayer and discernment - so you might also re-discover the Christ we celebrate and worship.


Anonymous said...

I've watched Jesus Christ Superstar numerous time. Despite that, I missed some of the connections. Thank you for your insight, very well said and written

Anonymous said...

At first, I thought the superstar angle made "Jesus Christ Superstar" sacreligious to the point of ridiculous, the message was lost in the shuffle.

Now, I'll watch it again, from a different standpoint, faith, it increases mine. I like the music, too.