JESUS CHRIST- SUPERSTAR?
The other night I caught the classic movie/musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber- Jesus Christ Superstar. I remember seeing it as a kid [it came out in 73] and I remember that there was some controversy over it. The intro on the Classic channel also talked about the controversy. Whenever a movie comes out depicting the life of Jesus [The Last Temptation of Christ] there usually is some type of protest about it.
As I watched Superstar I saw a few scenes that Christians might see as problematic- but overall I liked it. The things that Christians usually protest are the scenes that show Jesus as a man- tempted the same way all men are tempted- by women! That is- some of the movies depict Jesus as getting too close to Mary Magdalene and even having slept with her.
Now- believers most definitely reject the sleeping part- that did not happen. But was it possible for Jesus [and Mary] to have ever been tempted to be in love? I think so- the bible clearly says that Jesus was tempted in every way, just like us- yet he never sinned [Hebrews, 1st John]. So what’s the big deal if one of the temptations- which he never gave in to- was falling in love with Mary?
The point being- we seem to feel uncomfortable with the biblical doctrine of Jesus being tempted at all- we prefer to overlook the verses that show Jesus was in a great struggle. In Psalms 22- the writer prophesies of Jesus- he says ‘deliver my soul from the mouth of the lion- I call to you from the horns of the unicorns’ it shows a sense of desperation- a sense of Jesus in the garden praying- sweating great drops of blood ‘if it’s possible God- let this thing go away!’
I went to church Easter morning- I on and off attend a mega church here in the city- it’s the 15th fastest growing church in the country [they like to let people know the numbers/statistics a lot] and they average around 7 thousand attendees every weekend. I like the church- it’s a good church. Now, it just so happened that they did mention statistics this day- I felt like they wanted to show the people what they were doing with the money- kind of justify giving to the church- all okay things. As someone who has been around the block- experienced and studied church doctrine [called Ecclesiology- the word Ecclesia is the Greek word for church in our bibles] I have seen how easy it is to view church from the standpoint of getting the right amount of people to ‘join’ so you could have the right amount of money to carry out the church’s mission. Often times the well meaning pastors are influenced by the peer pressure to meet certain criteria and they unwittingly descend into a numbers game ‘gee- if I can just get so many more- who ‘join’ [which means they give 10 % of their money to the church] then I could accomplish so much’.
In the New Testament days you had what was called ‘Oral Tradition’ that is many of the early churches spread the message of Jesus by word of mouth. After a period of time [around 15-30 years- depending on whose numbers you use] these Oral Traditions were put down in writing [the gospels]. You also read how the apostle Paul sent letters to the churches he was working with- and he would say ‘have this letter read among you’. Why not say ‘pass it around and let everyone read it’? There were many early believers who were illiterate- so you had a designated ‘reader-lecturer’ handle the job.
The point being- when you had an increase of people who wanted to hear the message [from Paul or anyone else] you did not have the messenger go out and build huge buildings so everyone in the town could cram in on Sunday and hear Paul [or Jesus]. Instead you had a natural growth take place as people spread the message- that’s how the church grew.
As someone who has written and said much about this over the years [read my section ‘What in the world is the church’] I don’t want to get into the whole thing today- just wanted to say we in the west like seeing Jesus as a famous person- a ‘superstar’ if you will- we like putting him on a stage and seeing him perform. We like it so much we try and emulate this very aspect of what we see as ‘ministry’. Jesus was a real man [and really God] who was tested like all men- he never sinned- but the tests were real. Today we see him seated at the right hand of the father- in his glory- but first came the tests.
Jesus told his men ‘you are the ones who stuck with me all thru the trials- you endured. Therefore I give to you a kingdom- just like I went thru trials and my father has given me a kingdom’. Yes- Jesus has acquired superstar status in the Western world- the American churches seem to focus on that aspect much- yet the psalmist- speaking for Jesus- said ‘save me my darling from the mouth of the lion- the bulls are all around me- my skin sticks to my bones- I am in torment and my soul is at the point of death- help me’ we seem to forget this aspect of the superstar.