Episode 1. Jesus Christ Superstar
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Remember that musical – Jesus Christ, Superstar. The two don’t seem to sit so comfortably together do they – yet Jesus was a superstar in His day. So – what does that mean for us here and …
Remember that musical – Jesus Christ, Superstar. The two don’t seem to sit so comfortably together do they – yet Jesus was a superstar in His day. So – what does that mean for us here and now?
It’s great to be with you again at the beginning of this week, leading into Easter. You know one of my earliest recollections as a young lad in the 1960’s is of the Beatles coming to Australia. I only saw it on TV and then it was only in black and white, but the crowds were just amazing. Young fans screaming, people pushing and shoving, just to get a glimpse of the Beatles – superstars. And then came that quintessential 60’s musical Hair, followed by Jesus Christ – Superstar.
Now that title always struck me as being a bit odd. A Superstar, well that’s a modern term I associated with the Beatles, Jesus Christ, well he was some ancient stuffy character that you can read about in the dusty old pages of a book full of words like “thou” and “thee” and “art”. How could you possibly bring the two together? Jesus Christ – Superstar!
In these weeks leading up to Easter we’ve been just spending some time over the last few weeks looking at the question, “Who is Jesus?” Is He some character on the dusty pages of an old book, or is He some here and now contemporary person that makes a difference? Well, what’s the relevance here and now? I mean, who is Jesus? It’s what we’ve been looking at these last couple of weeks. Today, well we’re heading towards Easter and I though it would be really good to look at those days leading up to the ugly mob calling for His crucifixion, it was like a lynching in those days.
The week starts, the crowds are heading to Jerusalem, you see it’s the Passover festival, it’s a celebration, it’s where the nation of Israel looks back all those centuries to the time when God let them out of Egypt. And God sent all these plagues on the Egyptians and on Pharaoh and the very last plague was where the first born of all the Egyptians were killed. And the Israelites were told to paint blood on the top of their doors and as a result the angel of death passed over their houses and their children weren’t killed. That’s why the celebration is called Passover.
This was the time of the Passover festival, now for the last three years Jesus has been wandering around the country that we now call Israel. North and south, and He’s been healing people, He’s been preaching in the most amazing way and He’s been arguing with the hypocritical religious leaders. Jesus has had so much wisdom and authority in what He’s had to say. People have been really amazed, and of course His compassion for the poor and the needy and the sick and all the people that He’s healed with His power and His love. And there are even rumours floating around about him raising some guy called Lazarus from the dead.
So Jesus is quite a superstar, Jesus has some buzz happening around Him. He’s been drawing huge crowds; imagine He’s preaching to four or five thousand people without a microphone. And so there’s something about this guy. Let’s just pick it up when Jesus comes into Jerusalem just before the Passover. You can have a read about it; it’s in Mark Chapter 11 if you have a Bible you can look it up.
When they were approaching Jerusalem at Bethpage and Bethany near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Look go the village ahead of you and immediately as you enter it you’ll find tied up there a colt that’s never been ridden before. Untie it and bring it to me. If anyone says to you, “what are you doing?” Just say this, “the Lord needs it and will send it back immediately.” They went out and found a colt tied near a door just like Jesus had said, outside on the street. As they were untying it some of the bystanders said to them, “what are you doing untying that colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said and so the people let them take the colt.
Then they brought the colt to Jesus and He threw their cloaks on it and he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks out on the road and others spread leafy branches from the palm trees they’d cut down. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting ‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord, blessed is the coming of the Kingdom of our ancestor David. Hosanna in the highest!’ Then He entered Jerusalem and went to the temple and when He had looked around at everything as it was very late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
Does this remind you of anything? You imagine Jesus is coming into town riding on a donkey and there are crowds and they are cheering “Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is the One that comes in the name of David!” This is superstar status; this is like the Beatles coming to town. This isn’t about music or rock stars or anything. This is a man with authority and healing and someone who’s confounded the religious freaks, you know, this is someone special.
And He’s coming to town and the crowds are cheering and screaming and pushing. But there’s more than just Jesus is the great public speaking and Jesus has been healing someone happening here. There is something much bigger that the Israelites knew that you and I many not know by reading that little passage just off the cuff.
Israel at that time in the first century was a country occupied and oppressed, since 587BC, so almost six centuries when Babylon invaded Jerusalem, since that time they’d only had a really short period of 127 years, called the Hasmonean period where they had self rule. All the rest of the time they were occupied, and since 40BC there was the Roman occupation. In fact Israel saw no freedom again until post World War II, if you can call this freedom.
They had a great King called David way, way back 1000BC, and after their captivity in Babylon and all the occupations, prophet after prophet prophesied of another King, a Messiah, a deliverer. And one of the key prophesies, they all new it, was Zechariah 9:9 which says this.
See your king is coming to you righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on the donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey!
And so as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on this foal, on this colt of a donkey, He was saying something, He was speaking to the people and they knew exactly what He was saying to them.
Interesting, “see your King is coming to you, almost coming for you, coming for your benefit”. And the fact that he was riding a donkey was very symbolic too. Aside from the prophecy to ride into town on a donkey was a symbol of peace. If you were coming to conquer you would ride on a warhorse, but if you were coming in peace you would come in as a signal of that peace on a donkey.
Now it was pretty clear that they were expecting someone like their ancestor David, a warrior King. Someone who would free them from the Roman occupation, and yet these prophesies about a peaceful king. The last three and half years people have been wondering is Jesus the promised Messiah? Is it Him? Yes, no, debate.
Once Jesus said to His disciples, “who do they say I am?” And the disciples said, “Well, some of them say you’re John the Baptist come back to life, others say Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” And He said to Peter, “Who do you think I am? “ And Peter said, “You’re the Messiah, you’re the Son of God, you’re the one who is coming.” But only His closest disciples knew that, all the other people were looking at this power and authority and miracles and yet He didn’t fit the mould of what they were expecting of a Messiah.
And so the Passover they’re celebrating their freedom the gift from God and Jesus says, “Go get me a colt, I’m going to ride in.” It’s what we celebrate as Palm Sunday. And on that day He was saying something. On that day He was saying, “Yes it’s me, yes I am the One, yes I’ve come to set you free, I’ve come with my peace and my freedom to liberate you.” That’s why they were shouting, that’s why this rock star Beatles coming to town thing was happening then.
But how fickle public opinion can be, because it was only a few days after that, that Jesus was crucified. We’ll look at that for the rest of this week, but right here on that donkey Jesus was saying something that you can’t miss. “Yes! I am the Son of God!”