So, the last few days, I have been bed-bound. I hurt my back somehow, probably from lifting a box, dancing at my granddaughter’s prom, fishing, or a combination of all of the above. When you’re in your sixties, you really don’t have to do much. And that is a collective “you”. I’m not necessarily pointing any fingers here. I’m just saying, the older one gets, the easier it becomes to injure oneself. At least, that’s the way I look at it. I feel somewhat better about being so accident prone, It really is much nicer than saying that I’m just a “lummox” or a”clutz”.
Needless to say, I’ve been taking it easy, even going back to bed for the day yesterday, which is very unlike me.
With no TV in my bedroom, I decided to download a movie onto my phone. After much deliberation, I decided on “Jesus Christ, Superstar”, an updated, contemporary version from the year 2000 instead of the archaic 1973 version of the film.
Overall, I felt the movie to be a bit campy, but other than that, true to its original intent.
In my opinion, the original was quite sacrilegious, almost blasphemous, but I loved the music and still know every word to most of the older songs. You see, we played the original soundtrack repeatedly in my eighth-grade parochial school class. The nuns and the students were none the wiser. I’m not sure anyone cared about the questionable words at the time.
However, as an adult, I know there are some definite “red flags” about watching this movie. I also know that there is a version including the resurrection. I didn’t know prior to watching if this was THE ONE with that ending but I wanted to find out. I felt that I HAD to know. I wasn’t sure why I was so compelled to watch this fictional interpretation of Jesus passion and death. I just was. I thought maybe it was because I knew all of the songs, however, it turned out to be something quite different.
There are two character interactions in this movie that profoundly affected me.
The first encounter we see is that of the turbulent relationship that developed between Jesus and Judas Iscariot. From the opening scene, Judas is at odds with Jesus’ teaching. He feels as though Jesus has gotten to be too “heavenly minded” to be of any “earthly good” (implied in the opening song “Heaven on Their Minds”). Additionally, Judas is feeling like they have gotten away from their original purpose: defeating the Roman occupation in Israel. In Judas’ anger and frustration, he looks to Jesus’ real opposition of the day, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees and agrees to identify a location for his arrest, all for the handsome sum of 30 silver pieces.
Interestingly enough, when the time comes for Judas to identify a sad and sorrow-filled Jesus, Judas kisses him on the cheek, which, at the time, was known as a greeting of endearment. Jesus, emotionally drained, broken-hearted, crushed, yet understanding of the mission ahead, takes Judas’ sad and glistening face which was co-mingled with sweat and tears, cupped his head in his hands and said, “Judas, must you….betray me..with….a kiss??” Then, Judas fell to his knees sobbing while Jesus held on tightly and stroked his head lovingly, much as a mother coddling her young, till the Roman guards intervened and they were separated.
(Featured in the picture above is Glenn Carter as Jesus Christ and Jerome Pradon as Judas Iscariot in the 2000 remake of the film, “Jesus Christ, Superstar”.)
The second interaction was much like the first but with a character, no one would expect.
At first glance, I thought this person, as well as his cronies, might be the comic relief, but no, my mistake! You see, the Roman guards were all dressed like Darth Vader from Star Wars and Pontius Pilate was dressed more like a 1940’s German commandant or maybe even a Star Wars Imperial officer. At that point, I almost turned the movie off…almost.
Then something amazing happened. Pilate began to talk with Jesus, from his heart. After talking for a bit, Pilate comes to believe that Jesus is innocent of any crime. He may be confused or misguided but Jesus has done nothing deserving of punishment-no punishment of any kind. Then, Pilate does something totally unexpected. He tenderly looks into Jesus’ eyes and puts a gentle hand on his cheek and begs Jesus to say something on his own behalf, something that will spare this innocent man’s life. And then, Jesus cups Pilate’s face in his hands and speaks words something like this, “My life… is out of your hands”.
In the background, the chief priests work the crowds to their own advantage. They are all chanting, at first softly, but gain volume with boldness,”Crucify Him!” Repeating it over and over till Pilate has Jesus flogged, beaten 39 times. At 40 lashes, one can lose their life. Pilate counts each and every whipping. When he reaches the 35, 36, 37, he begins to weep. At 39 lashes, Jesus falls to the ground in a bloody heap and begins to roll away
. Pilate runs over to him, scoops him up, and holds him tenderly in his arms. He cradles Jesus’ head and speaks gently to him. Pilate wants to know why he stays quiet and begs Christ to give him something, anything, that will give him a way out of this death sentence. The crowds are getting louder and bolder while chanting their angry refrain; “Remember Caesar. You have a duty..to keep the peace, so Crucify Him! Remember Caesar! You’ll be demoted. You’ll be deported. Crucify Him!”
(Pontius Pilate, played by Fred Johanson, is seen here weeping while holding Jesus, played by Glenn Carter, in the 2000 version of the movie, “Jesus Christ, Superstar.”)
Seeing no other options, Pilate stands resolutely and walks away from Jesus to pass the death sentence that was decided on before the beginning of time. He is broken-hearted, angry and frustrated by this decision, however. He is upset that Jesus can’t or won’t change his fate, embittered by the two-faced mob of Jesus’ fellow Jews who won’t stand up to their own leaders and infuriated by the heretical, self-serving Jewish leaders who started this whole nasty business.
When looking back at both Judas Iscariot and Pontius Pilate, they were both portrayed as having the same type of response and reaction to their respective relationships with Jesus. I believe that Jesus forgave both Judas and Pilate at their point of contact with him. Both the Bible and Jewish historians tell us that they each felt regret and remorse for their respective actions. They both seemed to have an affection of some sort for Jesus. However, they were genuinely open with their feelings of anger, frustration, sadness and in the end, sorrow. We do see that, through it all, Jesus’ love was authentic. In all things, Jesus always loves because he IS love. And that love showed through perfectly.
I’m not sure if I would recommend this particular movie to friends and family. The “Darth Vader”/”Imperial Guard”, Roman Soldiers were a bit much, in my opinion. But, if you’re looking for an authentic movie about Godly love, “Jesus Christ Superstar” is a down-to-earth movie about just that. And, if you’re looking for unconditional love that transcends anything that we could possibly say or do…you won’t want to miss this for the world.
Till we meet again!