Jesus Was So Much More Than a ‘Superstar’

There’s something about Jesus Christ Superstar, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s “rock opera musical,” that doesn’t resonate. In a 1971 Time Magazine interview, Rice commented: “It happens that we don’t see Christ as God but simply the right man at the right time at the right place.”

It’s clear that this musical is not intended to be a work of faith, however, at its essence, it reduces Jesus solely to a man who let his good intentions get out of control. Pilate, in the musical, summarizes who Jesus really is in this story: “He’s mad, ought to be locked up . . . he’s a sad little man, not a king or god . . . he’s misguided, thinks he’s important . . . a misguided martyr . . . a misguided puppet.”

And, on top of that, and perhaps most importantly, there is no resurrection at the end of Jesus Christ Superstar. As the play ends, the Apostles and Mary Magdalene simply are in mourning and go and reflect deeply on the impact that Jesus’s life and ministry had on their own lives.

And this, for us who call ourselves Christians, is not enough. Jesus is more than simply a wise teacher, a gentle philosopher, who calls us to self-actualization and to go out and make a difference in the world. No, Jesus is God. He is fully divine and fully human, a man like us in all things but sin. He is the very Son of God who, for our sake, through the power of the Holy Spirit, was born of the Virgin Mary. Jesus is the Lord who, through his words and his deeds, helped us to realize that the Kingdom of God, which is Peace, Justice, and Joy is already present and not yet fully realized.

Jesus is the one who is the very fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets and it is He who, for our sins, becomes sin itself, bearing on his shoulders the weight of the world. He, the all-beautiful one, becomes scarred, wounded for our offenses. It is Jesus who was nailed to the wood of the Cross and, by being lifted up on high, becomes for us the very focal point of Salvation History.

Yes, Jesus really suffered for us and left us an example. And he really died and was buried, three long days in the tomb. And he really rose again from the dead, the promise and first fruits of what we, if we are faithful to him in this life, will be with him in the next.

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is more than just an interior feeling of mission and forgiveness experienced by the Apostles, who then, having become missionary disciples, sought to spread the message of this good man.

Jesus physically died. And he physically rose, in a new state, a glorified body. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Given all these testimonies, Christ’s Resurrection cannot be interpreted as something outside the physical order, and it is impossible not to acknowledge it as an historical fact” (CCC 643).

When we die, our soul and our body are separated. Our soul goes to God for the particular judgment, and our soul’s destination is Heaven, Purgatory, or hell. But in the final judgment, when all of time is completed, the Lord Jesus, who reigns in Heaven, will raise our bodies, glorified, and we will live and reign with him.

The resurrection of Jesus is real. If not, as Saint Paul says, we are the greatest of fools. It’s not just about feeling good and then doing good for others. It’s about the reality of the Lord’s resurrection, something that, by our baptism and faith, we share in as Christian believers. And it is that faith in the reality of the resurrection of the Lord that impels and motivates our relationship and service of others.