Reformation Lutheran Church A Congregation of the ELCA

Tuesday, March 3

Susayn Brandes

Jesus Christ Superstar, Do You Think You’re What They Say You Are?


While I expect most people will choose a hymn for their devotional theme, I was drawn to a song that was very important in my faith formation as a teenager. In the early ‘70s an early “Rock Opera”, Jesus Christ Superstar burst on the music scene. Originally conceived of as an album musical, it later was performed on Broadway and film. The film adaptation released in 1973 was the eighth highest-grossing film of the year. The actors who played Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Judas were nominated for Golden Globes. However, despite its popularity it was highly controversial. It was condemned as blasphemous by Christian groups, anti-Semitic by some Jews and while I was too young to be aware at the time, I suspect the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod was appalled. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, the musical’s creators did not profess to be Christians nor did they see Christ as God. The argument that there were liberties taken with the Gospel, Judas becomes a character that is a victim of sorts and the fact that there is no reference to the resurrection certainly are worth considering. However, this updated telling of PART of the story had a profound effect on me as a recently confirmed member of the church.


I was given a beautiful red RSV Bible in 1966 by my Grandparents. When I pull it out it is obvious it has been used. The binding is torn, there are sticky notes and highlighted passages and a memo on the inside noting that I was confirmed on Palm Sunday 1972. It is a well-loved and used Bible, stuffed with memories. But reading that Bible as a young confirmand was a bit dry and difficult for me to relate to. It was like reading a text on ancient history. When Jesus Christ Superstar burst on the scene it heightened my interest in the story. The story became more relatable. I started to have questions and I talked to people about faith. I began to feel the enormity of what Christ was doing for us. I related to the apostles, would I acknowledge being a follower of Christ if my life was endangered? Then there is Judas, a traitor who is depicted as a victim…how I relate to him. I so often make poor choices and sometimes play the victim myself. Thankfully, I know that through the resurrection of Christ I have been forgiven.


During Lent I pull out my CD and listen to “Jesus Christ Superstar”. When it was performed on live TV in 2018 I sat and watched, entranced. While it may not have been the intention of its writers, it has stirred my faith and increase my desire to study and understand more about my savior Jesus Christ. I think this is an example of Christ meeting us where we are.


“Jesus Christ Superstar, do you think you’re who you say you are”. The answer is absolutely yes, he knew he was the son of God, sent in human form to save us from sin and I know it too.


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