for release April 6, 2001
by Melodie Davis
So What Is Easter All About?
My daughter has a CD of the 1971 rock opera, Jesus Christ, Superstar. I found it to be great meditation music for Easter, while driving two-hour jaunts to the airport and to pick up my daughter at college. Some churches criticized it at the time because the rock opera doesn't include the resurrection of Jesus, and because of worries that Jesus' relationship with Mary Magdalene was hinted to be more than that of a good friend. Indeed, I had forgotten that the rock opera was deemed so controversial at first that only a recording was made; later it went to stage and then finally to movie. The music masterfully brings the life and thought of Jesus into public thought, confronting people with the facts of Jesus' life. This is a service in itself, given our times when many folks know too little biblical history. It also allows viewers to make up their own minds about Jesus-which is what has to happen anyway in matters of the heart.
The opera focuses on the last seven days of Jesus' life as seen by one of his followers, Judas Iscariot. Judas is the ultimate bad guy: rarely do you hear of anyone today who has named his or her child "Judas" or "Iscariot." On the surface, Judas betrayed a friend and a good -- even sinless -- man, Jesus. What a loser Judas was; he deserves our scorn. Yet I'm afraid many of us would have been just like Judas-a little mixed up and confused about who Jesus was and what he was trying to do. Judas was, after all, a disciple; he was part of the gang. He initially was attracted to Jesus and his teachings and loved him enough to be one of Jesus' faithful 12 followers.
I think that Judas sincerely thought that Jesus was making a big mistake and was trying to stop him. The fact that he gave back the 30 pieces of silver that he received for betraying Jesus, and then committed suicide, shows us the depths of the remorse and anguish that he felt.
The conflict as portrayed in Jesus Christ, Superstar is of course purely
the imagination of the writer, but lyricist Tim Rice has Judas sing:
"Listen Jesus, do you care for your race?
Don't you see we must keep in our place?
We are occupied
Have you forgotten how put down we are?
I am frightened by the crowd
For we are getting much too loud
And they'll crush us if we go too far ..."
Put yourself in the disciples' shoes. A teacher you respect and admire because he is so wise and warm and who helps everyone he comes in contact with, slowly lets you in on a bigger secret: he is also the Messiah, the son of God. Who of us wouldn't jump back and say whoa, you have illusions of grandeur. You're starting to believe your own press. Maybe you've been running around in the desert too long. Who is this guy, anyway? Cult leader? Maybe I've been mistaken in hanging around with him.
And here we are, almost 2,000 years after Jesus' death, still pondering the meaning of it all. People today still have trouble with the Son of God part. We are still thinking like Judas, "I can believe that Jesus was a good man, but that's all."
But look where Judas with his doubting and confusion ended: in anguish, remorse, and self-inflicted death.
Then look at the other eleven disciples and where they ended: they hung in there through dark days -- even days of doubting (look at disciple Thomas), cowardice and denial (look at disciple Peter). Eventually, though, they had their faith rewarded. They go on to found one of the great religions of the world. They are rewarded by hope and the promise that even though we die on earth, there is something better after death.
All of the disciples were very human-and we are too. We are privileged to glimpse the life and thought of all the disciples because they provide us entry points into how to respond to this Jesus. I don't know about you, but
I'll take my chances with the eleven, who believed in Jesus, rather than with Judas.
What do you think? Write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 655 words; end material = 105 words
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