The theater community had it well planned out for Holy Week this year.
North Texas Performing Arts had a youth version of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and Broadway Dallas scheduled “Jesus Christ Superstar.” I was fortunate enough to attend both with at least one of my children, which provided a fascinating lens to experience the stories anew.
If you’ve never seen either of these musicals, they are both composed by the legendary Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, but couldn’t be more contrasting in style. “Joseph” is a whimsical celebration of dreamers utilizing musical styles ranging from calypso to country-western, while “Jesus Christ Superstar” is a dark, rock-opera where Axl Rose or Steven Tyler would naturally slot in as Judas or Jesus. It might not be surprising then that the emotionally-preferred play, out of the two, was “Joseph.”
We like whimsical. We want to feel good. We like completion.
“Jesus Christ Superstar” captures the emotions of a frustrated, turmoiled Jesus surrounded by a crowd that both want everything from him, while simultaneously doubting whether he’s the right guy. It asks the question throughout, “Jesus Christ Superstar, do you think you’re what they say you are?” And then it ends when they take Jesus down from the cross – and silence. It was uncomfortable enough for someone nearby to nervously ask, “When are they going to do the resurrection?”
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Easter. I love Palm Sunday. I love every part about why we call it “The GOOD News.” I’d much rather celebrate all the good things, but there’s a certain nervous power about being confronted with the uncomfortable parts of Holy Week. It’s impactful to recognize what Jesus chose to walk into, and how horrifically he was treated – all in the name of love for you and me. It’s meaningful to see Pilate, Peter, Mary Magdalen, and Judas wrestle with the question of Jesus’ authority over their lives – the same way we do. To witness the uncomfortable nature of Holy Week on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday to fully experience and appreciate why Easter matters.
Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled,” and more promises to those who take in the full nature of what Christ means – those who become broken-hearted at the sight of violence, oppression, and cruelty. Because those are the people who will start bringing Easter into a more complete reality in our world until Jesus returns to finish the job.
I know there’s a 99.9% chance I’ll see you at Easter, and I’m really excited about that. But I hope I also see you at Maundy Thursday and Good Friday so that you can bear witness to the complete story of love and grace, making Easter that much more impactful.
May God make you uncomfortable this week in all the best ways, so that you might bring more comfort to the world in all the best ways.