Last Easter Sunday, NBC aired a staged concert version of the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar.” It was broadcast live, and while John Legend wasn’t really up to the role of Jesus in my opinion, Brandon Victor Dixon was an amazing Judas. And you need a great Judas for “Jesus Christ Superstar,” since that musical is essentially told through the eyes of Judas -- although it depicts very memorably the encounter between Jesus and Pilate that’s recorded in the Gospel of John, and from which our Gospel reading today, as we observe Christ the King, comes.
The story of Jesus’ passion as written by the apostle John is an astonishing piece of literature, and so important that we hear it every Good Friday in full: two whole chapters of Scripture! And this encounter is a key part of the conflict. In this corner, Pilate, the Governor of Judea, the political appointee from south of Rome, lording it over a bunch of hick towns, representing the kingdom of this world. And in that one, Jesus, an ethnic minority, beaten bloody and under arrest, but nevertheless God incarnate, representing the kingdom of God. It’s no wonder Andrew Lloyd Webber’s presentation of this epic face-off in "Jesus Christ Superstar” is so memorable, as of course are those of other artistic presenters of John’s passion text like J.S. Bach.
We only get a small section of the confrontation today, but even these five verses show us worldly power – its delusions, its hypocrisy, its pathetic limitations, both in the person of a Gentile, Pilate, and by implication of the Jewish leaders who have handed Jesus over to him. And they make a deep contrast between that worldly power, and the effortlessly true power of Jesus the real king, to whom all authority and heaven on earth has been given, who came to testify to the truth, meeting us in the face of a man condemned to die.
Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen
Many of our most beloved stories from childhood share some common themes. There are often two worlds in the story: for instance, one that’s dull, mundane, and usually harsh; the other magical and full of life. The two worlds are then linked together by the protagonist who often starts out in the “real world” of drudgery, but through some fantastical happenstance, finds him or herself transported into the other realm. This other realm is usually where the protagonist finds true self-discovery at last -- his or her “destiny.”
Tonight at Evensong we’ll be reading nearly the whole beautiful chapter of Revelation 21. We heard a snippet of it as our second lesson this morning: And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes."
That’s where we’re going, at least if we know and take seriously the Christian account of the universe. We are going to a place where heaven and earth will be married, where the wounds of this age will be healed by the mercy of the next, where love for every human being will be at home in every human being, where we no longer dread what we’re going to see when we turn to the day’s news because we and the world will have been made whole by Jesus Christ. If we know and take seriously the Christian account, that’s where we’re going.