Jesus Christ Superstar and Easter

Published 4:39 am Thursday, March 17, 2016

Every year at this time, I listen to a rock opera popular during my teenage years, “Jesus Christ Superstar.” One song tells the story about Palm Sunday and the crowd that greets Jesus as he rides into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey.

On Palm Sunday churches celebrate with children waving palm branches and singing hosannas. Can you feel the excitement? In the rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar rides into Jerusalem as if in a ticker tape parade. The crowd is singing and yelling with enthusiasm: “Christ you know I love you. Did you see I waved? I believe in you and God, so tell me that I’m saved.”

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week when we remember and relive the last days of Jesus’ earthly life. You hear about Palm Sunday, the plot by the Pharisees to destroy Christ, the last supper, the prayer in the garden, the arrest, the trial, Peter’s denial and the crucifixion until finally there is the miraculous resurrection as Jesus appears alive — all in eight short days.

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Palm Sunday should be an exciting day for Jesus. This enthusiastic crowd shouting praise for God would be a preacher’s fondest fantasy. Jesus is obviously a great success as a minister — or is he? This may surprise you. Jesus Christ Superstar goes on to record Jesus’ response, “Neither you Simon, nor the 50,000, nor the Romans, nor the Jews; Nor Judas, nor the Twelve, nor the priest, nor the scribes nor doomed Jerusalem itself; Understand what power is, understand what glory is, understand at all  — to conquer death you only have to die. You only have to die!”       

The Gospel of Luke says: “As they came closer to Jerusalem and Jesus saw the city ahead, he began to cry.”  Isn’t that a strange response for the guest of honor in a parade?

For three years Jesus taught the meaning of God’s son on earth, but no one understood what it meant: the disciples, the crowds, the Romans, the Jews, the religious leaders — none of them. They wanted a great leader, a messiah who would free the Jews and save Israel.

But Jesus had a different mission; he offered the gift of salvation to the entire world. In order to succeed, he had to be misunderstood, beaten and crucified. Why? Jesus needed to defeat death so we could receive and anticipate eternal life.

Sadly, the same crowds who shouted hosanna on Palm Sunday would shout in a few short days, “Crucify him!”

Before the end of the week, Jesus is arrested, tried, whipped, humiliated, spat upon, cursed, plotted against, crucified, dead and buried. When Jesus was born there was no room for him in the inn. When he died, there was no room for him in the world. Instead of rejoicing on Palm Sunday for Jesus Christ, the superstar,” we should remember how Jesus responded when he saw the city of Jerusalem. He wept! Maybe we should too.

But remember this — none of the sacrifice matters unless we believe what happens next.

After Palm Sunday and the Last Supper, the betrayal, the trial, the crucifixion and the burial we celebrate Easter. After reliving Jesus’ death, we celebrate his resurrection. Easter Sunday is coming.

REV. LARRY E. DAVIES  can be reached at