Over the years, the last days of Jesus on earth, as described in the Bible, have been acted and retold more entertainingly to believers. During the Easter holidays especially, Christians look forward to plays and musicals that best describe the passion of Christ. This is why the first-ever rock opera explaining the last days of Jesus on earth was a hit since the first time it was released. Still, many believers ask, what is Jesus Christ’s Superstar about?
Jesus Christ Superstar is a rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice that features the final days of Jesus on earth, which led up to his crucifixion. Interestingly, this musical has no spoken dialogue and focuses on the conflicts between Jesus, his disciples, the leadership of Rome, and the people of Israel.
Is Jesus Christ Superstar biblical? Why is there so much controversy around it? Are there blasphemous, sacrilegious, or inappropriate instances in this specific modern rock opera? Let us discuss the evidence suggested by religious scholars that will contribute to answering these questions and all others.
Jesus Christ Superstar plot
The story begins in desert hills, where a red and white bus comes into the scene and stops. A group of actors alights, dancing as they unpack costumes and props, including a wooden cross. They dance around Jesus and dress him in a white robe.
In the next scene, Jesus is seen talking with his followers, and Judas watches from afar. He worries that the Son of God is starting to believe what people tell him; that he is God. He also fears that the same people will turn against Jesus when they discover that he is not who they think he is. While Jesus is in the cave with his followers, the apostles curiously ask where they will go to Jerusalem. However, they are turned away when Jesus asks them to focus only on today and not try to think ahead.
In this scene, Mary Magdalene is introduced, and she comes in to soothe Jesus, who looks weary and tired, by washing his face with cool water. Because of her action, Judas wonders how a man like Jesus can waste his time on women like Mary. He calls it strange. Despite this encounter, Jesus quarrels with him by asking Judas who he thinks he is to criticize Mary.
We are then taken to a different scene where Caiaphas, the high priest, and his associate Ananas discuss Jesus. The high priest also agrees that Jesus’ popularity will make the Romans come down there. They both agree to take the matter to the priest’s council. Here at the council, Caiaphas convinces his fellow priests that Jesus needs to die since he is dangerous to the nation.
Despite all that, Jesus is still seen as being supported by the multitudes. He is led to Jerusalem by a crowd. Even though Caiaphas asks him to tone it down, he refuses, claiming that he cannot do anything to stop it.
In a different scene, however, Jesus predicts his death while Simon Zealots and other followers dance around him. This is propelled by Pontius Pilate, who has a dream where he sees people blaming him for the death of a Galilean (most amazing man).
One day, Jesus is seen visiting the temple, only disappointed at what he finds. The temple seems to have become a market and a den of prostitutes. So he angrily dumps the tables and chases people out. When he goes to the hills to calm down, he is met by a group of sick people who want to be healed. At some point, they overwhelm him, and he shouts at them to leave him alone. He runs back to camp and meets Mary along the way. Mary covers him in a blanket and sings to him as she confesses her undying love for him.
In a later scene, Judas is seen thinking deeply about something. He sees Roman tanks and panics, so he runs to the temple to explain his dilemma to the priests. He wants to betray Jesus but wants to explain his reasons first. Well, Caiaphas offers him money which he refuses, and only takes it when he is told he can use it on the poor. Judas then reveals where the Romans will find Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. So while Jesus and the disciples have the Last Supper in the Garden, he appears sad and reveals that he is about to be betrayed. Judas then exchanges some words with Jesus and angrily calls the soldiers. Meanwhile, the other apostles fall asleep, and Jesus wonders why they won’t stay up and wait with him.
So Jesus decides to commune with God. He asks him if he must go through with his death. Judas returns with the soldiers as he is praying and kisses the Son of God. The other disciples wake up and try to defend Jesus, but he stops them. So he is taken to Caiaphas, then to Pilate. Peter eventually denies Jesus thrice. Then Pilate dismisses Jesus’ case to Herod, who mocks him by asking him to perform even one miracle so that he will be released. Nothing happens, so Herod sends him away.
Judas watches as the soldiers handle him and then returns to complain to the priests about how badly Jesus is being treated; since he is given no solution, he feels very guilty to the point that he hangs himself. So Jesus is eventually crucified next to two men, and finally, the musical ends.
Jesus Christ Superstar characters
The people behind the growth and popularity of Jesus Christ Superstar are as follows:
|Ted Neeley||Jesus Christ|
|Yvonne Elliman||Mary Magdalene|
|Carl Anderson||Judas Iscariot|
|Larry Marshall||Simon Zealots|
|Barry Dennen||Pontius Pilate|
What was the relevance of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar?
The musical Jesus Christ Superstar allows believers to explore the Roman biblical setting of the final days of Jesus in a more current and inclusive setup. By giving these biblical figures human elements, the musical allows the audience to create a powerful connection with these characters in the Bible.
Is Jesus Christ Superstar biblical?
No, religious scholars imply that this modern rock opera is not biblical. It depicts Jesus as merely a man who lost sight of what he came to do on earth; hence he ended up being killed. However, believers argue that Jesus was not just a man; he was the Son of God. (John 10:30)
From the scriptures, Jesus always knew his mission: to save the lost. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10. Theologians also suggest that he knew he had to die for the lost to be saved (1 Peter 3:18)and that he did not just die but eventually rose again.
Is Jesus Christ Superstar inappropriate?
There has been much controversy over the years on whether Jesus Christ Superstar is appropriate. As much as many people enjoy watching this musical during the Easter celebrations, religious scholars have much to argue about it. Many believers find this musical to be inappropriate. This is because of several flaws pointed out in modern opera.
A sinful Jesus
Superstar shows Mary following Jesus, not only because she believed in him as the savior, but because she had a crush on him. In the play, while Judas was watching Mary wash Jesus’ face, he could not help but wonder how a man as powerful as Jesus could tolerate women like Mary. Remember, Mary is also seen as a prostitute, so during the musical, Judas warns of how scandalous a story this would be if anyone found out what was going on between them. The musical portrays Jesus as sinful, engaging in promiscuous activities with prostitutes. Yet in Luke 7:37, the scripture implies a different form of relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, compared to what is seen in the musical.
A Confused Jesus
In the musical, Jesus seems confused about his calling. He does not even understand why he has to die, and during his commune with God in the Garden of Gethsemane, he even asks God to tell him why he has to die. Contrary to this, Matthew 20:18-19 speculates that Jesus was ready for what was coming. He is seen predicting his death and his resurrection. ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged, and crucified. On the third day, he will be raised to life!’
An Innocent Judas
Superstar also implies that Judas Iscariot was more innocent than Jesus. It shows how he only cared for humankind, especially the poor, and that he was simply concerned about Jesus losing his path. The musical implies that Judas only sold Jesus to the soldiers when he was told he could help the poor, as if this was supposed to make everything right! This storyline is different from what the Bible suggests: Judas betrayed Jesus, the victim. John 12:4-6, But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
A Powerless Jesus
It was shocking to see Jesus feeling overwhelmed by the sick coming to him so that he could save them. This musical suggested that Jesus was powerless and pushed them away because they were too many. In fact, he is heard chasing them away in the musical while telling them to save themselves. How could this be so when, according to the Word, he saves and heals anyone who comes to him for healing (Matthew 4:24)?
Is Jesus Christ Superstar blasphemous?
According to religious scholars, Superstar is blasphemous. Still, before pointing fingers, it would be important to understand the meaning of this term. In a religious sense, blasphemy refers to great disrespect shown to something holy or God himself. Exodus 20:3 says, ‘You shall have no other gods before me.’ This means that believers will not worship or pray to any other Being in the universe when expounded. Yet, this musical produced came up with a different Jesus from the one believers worship in the Bible. (2 Corinthians 11:4)
Let’s not forget Exodus 20:4, which warns Christians about idolatry and how they will sin if they worship any other false god. The musical suggests a Jesus who is made in the true Jesus’ likeness, which according to the Bible, is sinful. These verses all contribute to religious scholars’ arguments that Superstar is blasphemous.
Is Jesus Christ Superstar mocking Jesus or not?
Some religious scholars imply that this musical mocks Jesus. This is because Webber and Rice wrote it from the perspective of Judas. Judas Iscariot is seen questioning Jesus’ behaviors, including his alleged immorality. He even warns Jesus of his habits and eventually makes a judgment call on why Jesus deserves to die.
The Word features an entirely different story. Judas was not the victim; he was the villain. He is assumed to have betrayed Jesus because of greed. The Bible implies that he was a thief, so he was ever greedy for money. For this reason, he cannot be the one telling us the story. Superstar allows this to happen, which is very wrong.
Is Jesus Christ Superstar sacrilegious?
The main reason for the production of the Superstar in 1973 was to entertain, but it later became very sort after and, eventually, widely known. It is based on the gospels of the New Testament, but when keenly studied, you discover that much has been left out while other unconfirmed information has been included.
Many biblical scholars suggest that the Superstar was only interested in creating drama and was irreligious or sacrilegious. Its intention did not seem to lean towards teaching Christianity since if this were the case, then the producers would have been accurate in every area, compared to the Bible. Jesus Christ Superstar did not even point out that Jesus rose from the dead, which has always angered many believers. How could these have been left out when it is such a crucial part of Jesus’ story? To understand how vital Christ’s resurrection is to believers, Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 15:14, And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
Is it okay for a Christian to watch ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’?
As a Christian, theologians speculate that watching Jesus Christ Superstar could be offensive and even off-putting. It leaves out many important details mentioned in the Bible and prevents Christians from gaining lessons and applying them in their daily lives. The Superstar also includes scenes of violence that even children cannot watch, which should not be the case. Unlike the Passion of Christ, this is not a production that every believer can watch. The storyline is also misguided, another reason why a Christian following it keenly will get lost.
What does the church think about the portrayal of Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar?
Many churches imply that Jesus was depicted as a very weak, confused, and sinful man in Jesus Christ Superstar. In reality, this is not who believers know as their savior. For example, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said the film was “a sincere if not a naive effort to tell the story of Jesus in contemporary musical and ethical terms. Some scenes require a mature perspective.”
Generally, the church does not support this musical’s message and implies that it is misleading and blasphemous.
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They say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, right? Being raised by Christians significantly impacted my life since I started professing Christ from a young age. My passion for the Christian faith made me pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology. I am a believer and pastor dedicated to spreading the word of God. I have been in the Christian ministry for over a decade and am currently ministering in Life Christian Church. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Please check the About Us Page for more details.