I didn’t watch the live performance of Jesus Christ Superstar last night, did you?
I planned on watching it but when the time came I just wasn’t feeling it, watched a movie instead. At one point I switched over, hoping to catch Sara Bareilles singing, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” because I LOVED that song as a young teenager back in the 70’s, when the album came out – sang it over and over again.
But Sara wasn’t singing, Alice was singing and the song sounded like a circus tune, so I switched back to the movie.
I’ve been thinking about the musical, though, about how it was banned in some places back in the 70’s, about how Christians protested it.
Because they didn’t get it.
They didn’t get that it wasn’t meant to be a Biblically accurate portrayal of the passion of Christ.
It was meant to be the passion told from Judas’s point of view.
And his view was skewed.
The hub and I were invited to watch a production of it in the home of one of his friends, back when we were first married. The production was well done.
If you’ve never seen it, it ends with Jesus on the cross. Dead.
During the discussion that followed I may have offended the host and hostess by commenting, “They left out the best part – they left out the resurrection.”
I didn’t get it back then either.
I didn’t get that from Judas’s point of view that’s how the story would have ended, had he been alive to see the end.
Scripture doesn’t tell us when Judas started following Jesus, but my guess is that he was among the great crowds who began to follow Him in response to the miracles He performed.
Judas saw the miracles, saw the opportunity and jumped on Jesus’s coattails, hoping to ride them all the way to the top.
Fame and fortune.
Perhaps Judas thought Jesus was a brilliant con man and he wanted in on the con.
But the con wasn’t playing out as one would expect.
Every time I look at you I don’t understand
Why you let the things you did get so out of hand?
You’d have managed better if you’d had it planned…
… Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ,
Who are you? What have you sacrificed?
Jesus Christ Superstar,
Do you think you’re what they say you are?
Was Judas beginning to fear that the whole thing wasn’t a con, that Jesus actually believed His own press?
A con artist had coattails he could ride, but a lunatic who actually believed what He was selling?
That wasn’t going to get him anywhere.
Or perhaps the betrayal was as simple as money. The love of money is, after all, the deep-seated root of every devious deed.
I started a ministry and asked a like-minded friend to serve on its board.
She did. Happily, peacefully for several years.
And then the ministry received a large grant.
Little by little she no longer served happily, peacefully.
Discontent took root and grew.
While we had all been content to serve without compensation, she began saying, “You’ll have to pay me for that…”
The grant wasn’t for salaries.
Her unrest hacked away at my strength, my soul, my faith in my fellow humans.
Or at least in my fellow Christians.
And then one day she resigned, to my great relief.
The chronology of Scripture puts Judas’s plot right after a scuffle about money:
Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.)
Jesus told Judas to leave Mary alone. She was doing the right thing.
So he left and sought out the chief priests.
He was going to make money one way or another.
But it turns out he had a conscience.
When Judas saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” Throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself.
He hanged himself before the end of the story, before the resurrection.
The passion from his point of view ended with Jesus hanging dead, because he hung himself dead.
Had he waited a few days, had he wept bitterly – as Peter did – and then carried on, had he not been completely blinded by his own agenda and preconceived notions, he would have understood that Jesus was all about restoration and forgiveness.
Had he waited, he would have encountered Mercy.
Tragically, restoration and forgiveness were too far off his radar.
We sang joyful songs in church yesterday:
Hear the bells ringing they’re singing that you can be
healed right now
Hear the bells ringing, they’re singing
Christ, He will reveal it now…
Joy to the world, He has risen, hallelujah
He’s risen, hallelujah
He’s risen, hallelujah, hallelujah
Jesus Christ Superstar ends with Jesus dead on a cross.
Such a shame, Judas leaving the theatre before the radiant final song.