Learning from the Grey

Musicals allow for a different approach to a story by providing poetry in every situation. This Easter, NBC brought one of my favorite musicals with an amazing cast to the world, with Jesus Christ Superstar. Superstar is one of those musicals that every time I watch it I reflect on a different character and how they are portrayed in the musical. I am not saying that Jesus Christ Superstar is by any means 100% theologically sound. However, it does provide very interesting interpretations of the characters none the less.

For today I would like to reflect on everybody’s favorite bad guy, Judas. In Superstar, Judas is the main antagonist and does a majority of the singing alongside Mary Magdalene. The portrayal of Judas’ and Jesus’ relationship is Jesus as the head of the group and Judas as the recently disillusioned head of outreach. He is not a purely evil being who has the only goal in life being the death of Jesus. Much the contrary, he believes in the teachings of Jesus, but is worried about the consequences of the divinity of Christ and messianic nature starting to bring grumblings of rebellion against the Romans. Personally, I get this concern, rebellion against an Empire of that size would be a terrifying thing when you just spent three years preaching love, and the people you were preaching to now want a to derail this a bit. Conflicted, Judas turns to the Pharisees to help prevent this by removing Jesus from the equation because Judas feels at this point Jesus is egging on the rebellion.

Now I am not trying to rationalize Judas betrayal of Christ, however, I think there is more to learn from this shade of gray Judas than a black and white, good and evil interpretation. Judas is supposed to be a cautionary tale for people, but I think its not supposed to be, don’t be evil. Its too easy to do that and Jesus wasn’t into easy lessons, he spoke in parables for lessons. If clear cut, easy lessons is what he was going for he failed miserably, and I don’t believe that Jesus went in with a failed plan. If we take Judas as a cautionary tale of healthy skepticism is an okay to have, but make sure that the ultimate message isn’t lost. In the opening song Judas questions, the disciples for not worrying about the here and now enough and having “too much heaven on their mind.” I personally get this, but Jesus also responds to Judas' protests by saying we have resources to only save so many people from their lot on Earth. This response to the protest provides the ultimate end goal and message I think we can take from Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, do not have too much heaven on your mind, its okay to have some skepticism about people who only think about the end goal and not the journey, and live by the words of Christ here and now. But, realize that even if you accomplish amazing things with those teachings, you personally are not going to save everyone from their situation on Earth, and don’t become disillusioned with the end goal just because you can’t save everyone. DO the best you can, so that others that come after you have another example of how a human did as much as they could with Christ's teachings and how much impact it had, so that they may make as much of an impact as they can, and the process continues.

Sam Jacobs

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