Note: This series is based on the 1970 rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice.
This Sunday’s song and text are among the most emotional of Jesus’ ministry. The story in both the musical and the Gospel takes place after the Last Supper and before the arrest. We are reminded us of Jesus’ humanity as he prays about being overwhelmed, about sorrow, and the plea to be spared from what he knows will come.
Even while he prays, there is a sense of abandonment. The three disciples who go with him to Gethsemane remain physically present, but emotionally and spiritually he is abandoned. He is alone.
Yet even in the face of all of this, he has the spiritual courage to say to God, “may your will be done.”
Matthew 26:36-46 (CEB)
36Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
43When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
Consider these questions:
- Try to imagine the emotional space Jesus must have been in when he prays in the garden. How would you describe this emotional space? Have you ever been so emotional? What was happening in your life? How did you work through?
- What has been your most fearful spiritual circumstance? Perhaps it was the situation from the previous question, or another. Did you communicate with God in this time? What did you say? Did you sense God’s response?
- Have you had a fearful experience different from those above that you didn’t necessarily consider a spiritual circumstance? Did you communicate with God in this time? If so, what did you say? Did you sense God’s response?
Post-Worship Update on 4/9
Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found at this link (will open in a new tab).
This Lenten season’s guiding format through Jesus Christ Superstar is largely focused on Holy Week (Jesus’ final week in Jerusalem before being arrested). If we look at this expression of the Lenten series this way, Sunday’s message can be seen as exploring the latter part of Maundy Thursday. And in doing so, we read about a moment where Jesus seems to me to be at his most human.
Sunday’s message noted our natural tendency to humanize some things. We name our cars, we see faces in natural formation, we place complex human emotion on our pets, and more. And this is not a critique! This humanization helps us to connect in meaningful ways.
The challenge comes when we place our human-ness on Jesus rather than receiving Jesus’ human-ness. We cannot create God in our image, but must remember that we are created in God’s image.
Consider these questions:
- What is a way that you have humanized something? A car? A pet? Something else? How did that humanization help you connect?
- In what way do you see others de-humanized? Where do you see this? How do you respond when you see this?
- How does humanizing something help you or have a positive affect? How can you humanize those who have been de-humanized?
- In what ways do you place your image or human-ness on Jesus or God?
- What can you do to open yourself more fully to receiving the image of Jesus or God?