Email Devotion For The Week Of Easter 2
Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. (Mark 14:10)
A week ago Sunday, I gathered with nine and a half million of my best friends to watch Jesus Christ Superstar on NBC TV. I have been a Superstar junkie for most of my life, and although I was never able to swing a Broadway production out of my wallet, I have both the 1973 film adaptation and the 2000 adaptation, too. This year’s live TV broadcast will eventually be added to my collection in whatever permanent format arises. I have used the 1973 film in any number of settings here at St. Peter’s over the years, mostly on youth retreats, once for an afternoon movie event, and once as a Lenten movie during Holy Week. I know the setting and spirit of the scenes as they are historically portrayed, and I have most of the lyrics in my head. I am a Superstar geek.
What has always grabbed me about Superstar is the unique take on the role of Judas. I have always believed that Judas is the star of the Superstar drama. And thus, those who have portrayed Judas have tended to be the best singers in the cast, with the meatiest songs in the drama. (And while John Legend is … well … John Legend … I thought Brandon Victor Dixon, of Hamilton fame, was clearly the more powerful singer in last week’s production, too. Note, however, that Carl Anderson, of the 1973 cast is still, however, my all-time favorite for the raw emotion of his portrayal of Judas.) So … my internal wrestling match with myself is, why the invitation to see the story through Judas’ eyes? Is it an invitation to consider the idea that Judas was a “scape goat” and not solely a heartless betrayer in the biblical passion narrative? (The 1973 film has an actual scape goat scene in their production, showing Judas and a goat being driven out into the countryside following the betrayal.) Are we encouraged to sympathize with Judas, in spite of knowing the depth of his betrayal? Are we being asked to entertain the notion that there is a bit of Judas in each of us? This is the ongoing dialogue which has always kept me close to the Superstar plot line, from the first time I heard the music in the early 70’s.
So here is a challenge for the week. Do we dare to consider the places where we “betray” God in our life and actions? Can we even ponder the scenario of living in Judas’ skin in first century Palestine, and the accompanying challenge of making different choices? Would you find more courage or more wisdom that Judas, were you walking in his sandals … would I? It feels like Lenten fare, to be sure, and we are only in the second week of the Easter season. However, Superstar also teases the audience with the possibility of forgiveness for Judas, also. And so the accompanying question to our Lenten one of betrayal noted above is … (and maybe this is the far more difficult and important question) … can we ponder the grace and love of a God that is powerful enough to forgive even the one who betrayed God in human flesh? And … can God forgive our betrayals of the divine in our lives and actions? That is an Easter question. Because we are talking about the ultimate and loving sacrifice our great God makes for us, in the moment of our ultimate weakness and sin. Now there is something to pray about and meditate upon this week, eh? Have fun! Remember we are all in this together … with God at our side … and maybe even Judas and all the saints in heaven.