What can we learn by watching a popular production about the life of Jesus? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Last night for Easter, my wife heard about Jesus Christ Superstar coming on and wanted to watch it. She never had and I never had either. It also didn’t hurt that Alice Cooper was playing a role and she likes his music. (My taste in music tends to be video games, Weird Al, TV shows, and lately, The Greatest Showman.) So we sat down to watch together.
Now I have heard some about the history of the production. It is not made by Christians. It is made in the time of the Jesus People and it is the time that people were trying to rethink about the life of Jesus and if He was worth following then. I don’t have much more to say about the history.
Yet at this point, it still remains the case that Jesus seems to have a great way of confronting every generation. Everyone wants to reshape Jesus and most everyone wants to reshape Him for their position and side. If you have a movement, you want to say that Jesus is on the side of your movement. Nowadays most every religion that comes around has to say something about Jesus.
The production has Mary Magdalene also showing a love interest in Jesus. I do suspect that this is one-sided, but I find it interesting that in our day and age, we read the Gospels and we sexualize them. It’s not just in our day. Some of the Gnostic Gospels had a romantic relationship between Jesus and Mary.
This also shows us something astounding about Jesus. Jesus is not seen as a major romantic figure wooing the ladies despite His company including prostitutes regularly. We don’t know if that means Jesus was asexual or not. What we do see is that He treated women with great dignity and respect. Women today are far better off because Jesus came.
Judas is seen in the work as a tragic figure. In a sense, he is. He was so close to the person of Christ and yet he fell so far. Judas should be a warning to us all. We could even say that there’s no reason to doubt that Judas was part of the entourage that went out performing miracles for Jesus and yes, Judas was there when Jesus washed the feet of the disciples. Despite all this, Judas fell. Let’s always be watching ourselves to make sure that we do not fall.
There’s no indication either that Jesus rose from the dead in Jesus Christ Superstar. My wife watching said, “If He didn’t rise from the dead, what’s the point?” Indeed. What is the point? Yet as we say this, let’s remember that if we say it’s all utterly pointless if He didn’t rise, then we should think the exact opposite if He did. If you think Jesus has nothing to say to us if He just stayed dead, then what difference does it make that He rose again?
Something I told Allie after all of this was it got me thinking about how I have read various religious texts in the past. Let’s take the Book of Mormon. I have read all of the Mormon Scriptures. Something I walked away with from that experience was a greater appreciation of the real deal. When I see Scriptures that aren’t authentic, it’s always great to return to the ones that are. Something about the Bible is unique. Other books are trying to be like Scripture. Scripture is just being itself.
In the same way, let’s look at other peoples’ attempts to portray Jesus and just see how far short they fall. When we do, let’s appreciate more the Jesus that is there. At some times, the Jesus I saw looked rather pitiful, yet I never could think that about the Jesus of the Bible. The Jesus of the Bible is just so radically different. We should appreciate Him all the more.
At the same time, I don’t really condemn others for trying to understand Jesus. He is a unique figure like that. This shows just how incredible Jesus is. It has been said that if Jesus never had existed, we couldn’t have invented Him. Those who think Jesus is nothing special really haven’t spent much time looking at the figure in His time and context.
Jesus Christ really is a superstar, though not for the reasons given last night. Jesus Christ is a superstar not because of how He is in a production. Jesus is a superstar for being not like He was in it. If you want to see the real Jesus Christ Superstar, it’s best to read the Gospels. You’ll find Him there.