Every year in the Joyner home we would always watch either Godspell or Jesus Christ Superstar- both in all their seventies glory. To this day I keep the tradition, though I must confess I am a much bigger Jesus Christ Superstar fan (the whole clown thing never really translated for me). So, this past week Dan and I snuggled in our couch to watch the unfolding of Jesus’ last week in the best way, with pop rock ballads- bell bottoms- and amazing hair!
When I was little I loved the story for the acrobatics of it. Oh the physicality and dancing! Now, I love Jesus Christ Superstar for the ways it draws out the nuances of a story that is sometimes over simplified. We all grew up on and know that over simplified version of the story. Jesus died because of humanities sins, and so we celebrate by letting ourselves indulge in one the the seven deadly sins- gluttonously gorging ourselves on chocolate bunnies and Cadbury eggs.
But within Jesus Christ Superstar we are reminded of some of the nuances that also exist within our scripture. Today our reading comes from the Gospel of John, and we hear of the struggle of those in this story to figure out how to do the highest good.
Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.- John 18:14
I am sure Caiaphas, a member of the religious elite, was worried about Jesus. He was a rebel rouser in many ways, subverting Jewish traditions by claiming that he knew best. Jesus, also, was making a scene, drawing attention to himself just as the Romans were increasing military presence in Jerusalem during the time of Passover. I can imagine Caiaphas thinking, “If the Jewish leaders cannot control him someone must before the hard hand of Rome comes down on us all.” Caiaphas has convinced himself and others that he is trying to do the greater good.
But in this sad story everyone seems to pass the buck. Pilate claims he doesn’t want to crucify Christ but does what the crowds demands. Peter says he would never deny Jesus only to find himself afraid for his life, claiming, “I don’t know him.”
This week especially maybe we need to do deep introspective work. How often do we find ourselves in positions like Caiaphas, convincing ourselves out of fear, maybe fear of an external force the power of Rome, that our actions are truly just? How often are we like Pilate, knowing what is right, “this man has done nothing- how can I crucify him,” but finding ourselves persuaded by public opinion to take action anyway as we wash our hands. How often are we like Peter, convinced of our own strong hearts until we are confronted with fear for our lives and the potential of physical threat and shy away.
I wonder how often in our world Christ has been crucified for these reasons and a thousand more. I wonder how often Christ has died for people’s perceptions of the greater good.