Note: This series is based on the 1970 rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice.
This Sunday, we begin our Lenten series that follows the smash musical, Jesus Christ Superstar. Made popular once again this past year when NBC broadcast a live production, we were treated to the incredible musicianship of Brandon Victor Dixon, Sara Bareilles, John Legend, and more. The storyline of the musical – and the narrative we’ll follow during Lent – is mostly focused around Holy Week.
The last week Jesus spent in Jerusalem was filled with teaching and with confronting the religious elite. And just as the musical starts dramatically, so did Jesus’ ministry. The opening song to the musical critiques Jesus and the disciples, and while it is from Judas’ perspective, it is also very much from “the outside looking in.” Our scriptures for this Sunday echo a similar perspective.
Luke 4:1-13 (CEB)
1Jesus returned from the Jordan River full of the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. 2There he was tempted for forty days by the devil. He ate nothing during those days and afterward Jesus was starving. 3The devil said to him, “Since you are God’s Son, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.”
4Jesus replied, “It’s written, People won’t live only by bread.”
5Next the devil led him to a high place and showed him in a single instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6The devil said, “I will give you this whole domain and the glory of all these kingdoms. It’s been entrusted to me and I can give it to anyone I want. 7Therefore, if you will worship me, it will all be yours.”
8Jesus answered, “It’s written, You will worship the Lord your God and serve only him.”
9The devil brought him into Jerusalem and stood him at the highest point of the temple. He said to him, “Since you are God’s Son, throw yourself down from here; 10for it’s written: He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you 11and they will take you up in their hands so that you won’t hit your foot on a stone.”
12Jesus answered, “It’s been said, Don’t test the Lord your God.” 13After finishing every temptation, the devil departed from him until the next opportunity.
Deuteronomy 34:1-4 (CEB)
1Then Moses hiked up from the Moabite plains to Mount Nebo, the peak of the Pisgah slope, which faces Jericho. The Lord showed him the whole land: the Gilead region as far as Dan’s territory; 2 all the parts belonging to Naphtali along with the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, as well as the entirety of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea; 3 also the arid southern plain, and the plain—including the Jericho Valley, Palm City—as far as Zoar.
4 Then the Lord said to Moses: “This is the land that I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I promised: ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have shown it to you with your own eyes; however, you will not cross over into it.”
Consider these questions:
- In what way does the Deuteronomy text highlight the “outside looking in” theme? What about the Luke text? Where do you see their connection?
- As the Israelites prepared to enter the Promised Land, what do you think they were anticipating? What may have brought about fear for them?
- As Jesus was beginning his ministry, what do you think he was anticipating? What may have brought about fear for him?
- Where are you feeling “outside looking in” or “on the edge?” What are you anticipating and/or fearing?
Post-Worship Update on 3/12
Audio from the sermon can be heard below. Due to a technical error, no video is available.
Sunday’s message from Adam help us to enter into the season of Lent with a practical look at the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. It is with this story in mind that the season of Lent lasts for forty days (though Lent does not count Sundays).
Adam highlights the “strangeness” of the story as Jesus is catalyzed by the Holy Spirit, experiences temptation, and quotes freely from the book of Deuteronomy. With a practical look, Adam reminds us that much of what is offered to Jesus is earthly. When fasting for forty days, a bite of bread may seem rich and luxurious. When raised in a humble household, immense power may offer respite for the weariness of work and responsibility. When given the opportunity for the adrenaline rush of impulsivity and an immediate rush, it is surely difficult to turn away.
But Adam reminds us that these are early things, and as people of faith we are called to look toward heavenly things. Jesus reminds us of this very thing in John 3, as does Paul in Colossians 3. The way Adam phrases it, perhaps we need a little more Heaven on our minds.
Consider these questions:
- Do you also see strangeness in the temptation story? Do you see strangeness in other Bible stories or other traditions in the church?
- Where do you sometimes focus on earthly things when you might be better served engaging with the Spirit?
- How could you have a bit more Heaven on your mind?