Jesus, why some people actually quite liked him

07/10/2016

Jesus Christ Superstar Arena Tour 2012Having seen Jesus Christ Superstar, the arena show, I now have some sympathy for Judas.  Jesus in the show comes across as self-righteous and ever so slightly whiney whereas Judas is much more rounded.  He has to come to terms with his sense that the man he is following is not the Messiah he thought he was. I did love the show (by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice) and I thought it was brilliantly acted and sung.  I loved the contemporary setting, with Jesus being one of the anti-capitalist protestors on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral and the high priests being City bankers.  Tim Minchin was fantastic as Judas and Ben Forster was excellent as Jesus.  However, I came away feeling that it’s hard to imagine anyone being all that fussed about Jesus one way or the other.  Why did so many people love him?  All he does in the show is moan about how no one understands him in a series of beautifully pitched high notes.  To be fair, the show does contain words said by Jesus as reported in the Bible, but without the context of all that had gone before.  Why did the bankers want to kill him?  Preaching against unrealistic bonuses is hardly going to bring the City down.  Why did anyone want to follow him when he just complained about the fact that they didn’t appreciate him?

The problem is that the show starts at the end of Jesus’ life.  There is no account of all Jesus’ miracles, of the way he transformed people’s lives, of how he took on the oppressive religious leaders.  You miss the background to why Mary Magdalene loved Jesus so much – she was cured of seven demons, Luke 8:2.  I don’t know what they were, but they sound nasty.  And why did Jesus have so many followers?  One reason I, and possibly others, love him is that his first miracle was turning water into wine (John 2).  Others loved him because he healed them physically or spiritually.  He showed an interest in everyone and gave his time freely to people.

I love the story of the Samaritan woman (John 4) where Jesus talks to someone he shouldn’t – a Samaritan and a woman.  Being Jewish and a man this was not on.  He asked her for help, a drink.  He knew her deepest needs – she was looking for love in all the wrong men, an ongoing issue which is literally as old as the Bible.  He didn’t condescend to her but entered a theological debate with her.  And he revealed himself as the long awaited Messiah to her.

Jesus wasn’t a one-sided character complaining about overpaid bankers.  He called his disciples ‘friends’.  Not even his enemies could find any sin in him.  He welcomed little children, although he did have the distinct advantage that he could send them back to their parents if they had a tantrum.  He loved the apparently unlovable, which even included a tax collector, on a par with a ‘loan shark’ these days.  He challenged the powerful.  He cared deeply about justice and wanted nothing to stop people having a relationship with God.

It’s actually almost impossible to list all the reasons why people loved (and still love) Jesus.  Can anyone put fully into words why they love their partner or their family?  I love my husband very much.  I could write all about him.  I could draw a picture and put it in a stained glass window.  I could get an actor to sing some songs about his sufferings with his Crohn’s disease.  But unless you met him you wouldn’t really know him.

Ok, so we can’t meet Jesus in the flesh, although we could have done if we’d lived 2000 years ago, in Israel, and had been at the right well or up the right tree, but one of the advantages of being God and existing as a Spirit, is that Jesus can meet with us and can be absolutely part of our lives.  I can have a relationship with Jesus in almost the same way the people who lived around him did, except that now I have the Spirit (and the rest of the New Testament) to help me understand who Jesus was and what he achieved through his death on the cross.

It is a challenge to consider how Jesus would act and what he would do if he lived today.  Would he be a protestor against Capitalism?  Would he be a politician trying to change the system from within?  Would he be a nurse?  Who knows?  But whatever he was doing, there would be hundreds who wanted to be around him and plenty who felt threatened by him.  He would be loved, misunderstood and hated.  And he still is.  In Jesus Christ Superstar you get the idea that some loved him and some hated him.  But actually many of us probably prefer Judas.

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