Recently, I attended a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar staged by PCYC (Police Citizens Youth Group) in Burnie. The production was quite good for a city that most people have never heard of and care even less to visit.
But what was sad about this production, besides the casting of a middle aged, overweight woman as the young and attractive Mary Magdalene, was the amount of people who didn’t understand the musical. In a small town like Burnie you get to hear exactly what people think about the local entertainment.
They didn’t understand why the Romans killed Jesus. They didn’t know who Pilate was or why Judas was continually warning Jesus about the dangers they faced. Basically they missed everything.
I found it incomprehensible there could be any confusion. Surely the trial and crucifixion of Christ underpins Western culture. Our morals, laws and beliefs have their basis in Christianity.
I soon discovered that their confusion was due to a lack of historical context.
Israel, alongside most of the known world at the time, was conquered by the Roman empire. As an occupied nation they had to obey the rules of the conquerors. Any resistance to Rome was quickly crushed. Anyone claiming to be a messiah would be a threat to Ceasar and therefore had to be eliminated. Little wonder Jesus met a nasty but very common death by crucifixion.
I thought this was common knowledge. I was wrong.
Jesus Christ Superstar is merely a musical about a man who dies on a cross after a lot of singing, dancing and whipping.
Yet, if this most famous of stories confuses people, what will our descendants make of our current era?