My mother bought home the boxed set, black and impressive containing the rock opera album musical released in 1970. We were traditional evangelicals unsure of the relevance of the newly invented genre “rock opera”. What did Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber know about Jesus and why would they call him a superstar?
We listened to the records frequently at the time noting that one of the tunes was being given widespread airplay on FM radio. The soundtrack itself showcased some serious rock guitar solos and riffs. But what was the message? I was reminded of all this as I watched the live performance with John Legend recorded last year. I was also reminded of one of the themes that seems worth repeating now more than ever.
One of the protagonists, Judas Iscariot, the son of perdition, was portrayed as decidedly angry and resolute choosing to turn Jesus in to authorities to up-end the movement. Judas is consistently portrayed as a consummate bad guy. The easy viewpoint is that he was only interested in fattening his pocket. But if he was a follower like the others, he had to leave everything he had behind. I don’t think that explanation tells the whole story. Judas, like all of us, had some redeeming value.
A point that Rice/Webber seem to make is that Judas must have gotten caught up in the politics of the time and became frustrated with the Messiah’s efforts to overthrow the Roman Empire’s infiltration of Israel. It wasn’t moving fast enough; it wasn’t gaining ground. He wasn’t being ‘king-like’.
Here’s the message to all those who want their vision or knowledge to supersede what God is doing. That is, “God’s not getting it done, I’ll do it my way . . . “The Bible is full of examples from Cain to Jonah to Judas and beyond. Their way did not go well for them. Judas was right in a very limited sense. Jesus was not going to overthrow the Roman Empire and reclaim the Hebrew homeland because he had an entirely different end game. His strategy was to re-connect the world with the Kingdom of God. His strategy is still working, on his timeline.
We cannot expect to know the best way to go about things and we need to stop getting in God’s way as He is healing the nations. This quote from John MacArthur says it best.