Scripture: John 21.15
Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
“Christ, you know I love you.” — The Crowd and Disciples, Tim Rice, Jesus Christ Superstar
Reflection: Learning from Judas
By John Tillman
Jesus Christ Superstar, from creators Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, has always been controversial. However, if we stop trying to sync it up to Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, and instead make note of its contrasts, its factual and theological errors can be instructive.
The most important fact of the Gospel—The Resurrection—gets left out of Jesus Christ Superstar. But the show gives a very revealing look at our culture’s ideas about Jesus because it is told from the perspective of the disciple of Jesus with whom our culture has the most in common—Judas.
The production shows Jesus’ last week of ministry as the looming failure that Judas must have perceived it to be. The show, of course, is fictional and expands the narrative beyond what the scriptures tell us of Judas. But many of the show’s implications about him can be defended scripturally.
As portrayed in the show, Judas is a disciple who has little use for religion without tangible effects and tangible rewards. Judas is focused on outward appearances, on being politically expedient, on social justice (from his perspective), and on public shows of religious charity.
Judas would be a great prosperity Gospel theologian. Judas would be quick to endorse or stand behind a corrupt political candidate if promised concessions from the government. Judas would attack the character of those who disagreed with him.
The great value of viewing Jesus Christ Superstar as a Christian is not to condemn Judas, but to see how like him we are.
How we long for Jesus to only say and do the things we are comfortable with him saying and doing!
How we long for Jesus to take down our enemies and lift us up!
How we long for recognition for all the difficult work we do “in his name!”
His practicality, his self-righteousness, and his faith in political maneuvering make Judas a disciple as fit for our modern age as his ancient one.
What we are called to is so much greater than the political deals we are willing to make and the causes we want to campaign for.
The Judas of Jesus Christ Superstar gives us a chance to see, and perhaps repent of, whatever it is that we would be willing to trade Christ for.
Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. — Matthew 5.6
– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.