The film adaptation of Jesus Christ Superstar ends with Christ hanging on the Cross, dying. As he dies, the disciples – in fact, all those present at that scene – slowly wander off and begin gathering at a tour bus. They load the props and themselves onto the bus, a few of them occasionally looking back at that final scene of the Cross. Then, the bus drives off, presumably to replay the whole drama again somewhere else. Actually, the drama – either as a musical on or off Broadway or in film – has been played out even to today.
There is no resurrection scene. There is no “victory.” There is only the sense that Jesus’ followers would remember what happened and replay it elsewhere.
This sort of view of the Paschal Mystery finds is expression in the theology of a 20th-century Lutheran theologian named Rudulf Bultmann. The controversy with his theology is that he tends to strip Jesus of anything extraordinary, miraculous, or divine. For Bultmann, Jesus is the “right guy at the right time,” but he admits that we as Christians looking at our human Jesus must remain open to the possibility that he ended as a failure. The Cross was neither his idea nor his intention. Things just got out of control for this Messiah. If we are to speak of any sort of “resurrection,” we can speak of it as occurring “in the hearts” of Jesus’ friends and disciples. Their preaching of Jesus – what we call the kerygma – is actually the “resurrection,” and Jesus the man remains dead.
This sort of reduction of Jesus to merely an historical figure (which he is), fails to allow faith any role in our view of the events of his life. Jesus was just another guy in this perspective. Certainly, it is easy to believe – after all, it does not require any sense or belief in anything extraordinary. Life happened to Jesus the same way it happens to us. In fact, even the gospel that we hear tonight would suggest simple confusion as the result of Jesus life and death – an empty tomb; frightened women; silence.
However, our faith is much richer than that. Jesus was not “simply” human; he was fully human – and fully divine. The events of his life were not mere causes and effects, the result of “fate” or the forces of circumstance. Jesus had a mission. That mission was one of sharing the Father’s love, of revealing who we truly are, and of sacrifice for others. The Cross was not just a result – it was the cr
owning of a life of self-giving – an offering in the purest and truest sense to the Father.
Just so, the resurrection is also real. In the resurrection, God affirms the reality of His saving love for Jesus, and through him for all humanity. Without that resurrection, our faith is a mere human invention; our Church is a purely human construct; and our salvation is a self-delusion on a grand scale.
However, this is not the case. God has acted! Jesus is risen! Our salvation is not a matter of our feelings or our actions. It is God’s doing.
Jesus was not any ordinary human being.
The Cross and Resurrection are no ordinary event.
And, friends, this is no ordinary day.
The salvation that has been hoped for from the first day of creation – from the day of Israel’s deliverance through the Red Sea – from the preaching of the prophets – from the appearance of Jesus in our world – that salvation is now real!
The women at Jesus’ tomb – like all in Mark’s gospel – have a hard time comprehending the young man’s message to them. They cannot grasp the wonder of what has happened. They know the tomb is empty, and they see this glorious person sitting there explaining what has occurred, but still, their response is silence and fear. It is not until later, when the power of God has been shown in the encounter with the risen Lord, that people begin to understand the meaning of the last week – and, indeed, the meaning of Jesus’ whole life. That, then, becomes the kerygma, the preaching of the Church: the Crucified one, whom you seek, has risen! Now, he goes before us and beckons us. We will see him where we go; we will encounter him; and we must share Him!
We are not left, piling onto a bus, waiting to replay something that has ended in the past. Rather, we are going forward united with Christ, our risen Savior, ready to encounter him in our brothers and sisters – to live that Gospel, and to make new disciples.
He is our “Superstar.”
He is Jesus Christ.
He is the Risen Lord.