As many await to see John Legend in Jesus Christ Superstar this Sunday, I have been reminded of the first time I saw the movie in theater when I was a middle school-er. Enwrapped in the familiar story line, I was taken back by the stark in your face rock opera’s rendition in its debut on the big screen. It was raw. It was unexpected. But it communicated something real to me then as it does now.
Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's telling of the last week of Jesus’ life gets at a part of the story that I think is missed in most preaching and teaching. What is missing? The angst of actually walking the narrative of the life lived. The disciples--full of sexual confusion and violent tendencies, mistaken understandings and sorrowful disappointments, devastating betrayal and anxious reactions--navigate a passion filled week when the stakes of life and death are constantly being raised. The governmental and religious authorities are portrayed as wild and dark. Being human (and yet divine), Jesus is not depicted without feeling. Together this made for a completely new telling of the divine story which I shook me to the core as young adolescent.
Gone were the pictures from my head of a sanitized Jesus and a gang of dutiful disciples. Enter in the secularized realities of godless religious and power hungry leaders.
Fresh eyes seeing and new ears listening are helpful in the reading of the scripture text. They are especially helpful when our life in God has grown dry. They are important when the story itself has lost its potency.
I am not sure what the new updated version of Jesus Christ Superstar will say to this generation who will see it for this first time on Easter Sunday. I am hopeful though that somehow--just as it had before to a desperately lost young girl--it will speak truth.
I can still touch those places in my soul as I listen to the soundtrack. It is amazing how lodged they are in my own story of faith.
-Pastor Jan Bros, Holy Week 2018