I am in love with Holy Week. It’s my favorite time of the Christian year. Christmas is oh so magical, but Holy Week has a certain reverence like a hush, like a whisper, like a silence, like a last breath that leaves me breathless. I’m left feeling so close to Jesus, so faith-filled. (I’m also a complete basket-case during Holy Week; I just can’t hold it together. I’m always crying. It’s a very emotionally raw time for me.)
My wonderful church, Messiah Episcopal, on a chilly Palm Sunday
All that being said, I first came to know of the spectacle that is ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ in high school. At this time I was struggling spiritually. I would say it was the closest I have ever been to what one would grandly coin a ‘faith-crisis.’ It’s not so much that I didn’t believe in God; it’s that I was angry and terribly confused in my transition from the faith of a high school student in an evangelical mega-church to my current adult beliefs.
Enter ‘Jesus Christ Superstar.’ I watched it and was completely smitten. What could be more original than a bunch of sweaty hippies who drive out to the desert in their peace bus and put on a play of the Passion? And what could be better than that classic blonde-haired, blue-eyed 70’s Jesus replete with soul patch?!
All jokes aside, this movie really is a solid piece of spiritual art. Now I really lost you right? ‘You’re saying a funktastic, black Judas, a flower-child Mary Magdalene, and a cast of hippies singing rock opera all add up to something biblical?!’ Well, maybe not entirely scriptural but definitely something that moved me closer to Jesus in even my darkest time of faith.
The characters we know so well are made very human and very real. I am aware that the whole ‘Mary Magdalene and Jesus as an item’ thing is so overblown, BUT this movie approaches it very beautifully and tenderly and, in my opinion, realistically. Mary, having been used and abused and ‘loved’ by so many men, feels confused when faced with the unconditional love of Jesus. She feels overwhelmed, twinges of her romantic love mix with twinges of something SO much greater than she can even comprehend (the love between God and His people). This song is so tender, and I don’t think it is a stretch to say she really could have felt this way (And of course, I’m already bawling LOL):
Also, the film exposes the humanity of Jesus in a very real way. Jesus seems so vulnerable and tired (“After all I’ve tried for 3 years, seems like 30, seems like 30”).
He appears terrified of death and even doubtful of his impact on humanity. It breaks my heart every time. In the midst of his desperation and self-doubt, there is a powerful montage of crucifixion iconography and you feel the lasting legacy that Jesus has left through his ultimate sacrifice. You’re left wanting to cry out, “Yes! You will be remembered! I remember you!”
And finally did I mention it’s epic and oh so funkay:
I had the privilege of seeing Ted Neeley, the man who played Jesus in this movie, in the stage production of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ at the Orpheum! Life-changing!!!
All that being said, I encourage you, Christian or not, to watch this film. It really is a gem. Watch it for the music and watch it for its raw sentiments. And what could be a better time than Holy Week? Kick back on Holy Saturday, and let this retelling of the Passion transport, move, and refresh you. I guarantee you’ll be ready to wake up Easter morning and exclaim with fervor that the Lord is risen indeed!!!
xoxo chloe ella