Jesus Christ Superstar, a rock-opera, emerged from the imagination of Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) and Time Rice (lyrics), which was later brought to life on the big screen by director Norman Jemison in 1973. Filmed on location in Israel, the movie is centred around the last seven days of Christ's life, from the time he arrived in Jerusalem up until his crucifixion. The movie is truly from the point of view of Judas Iscariot, one of the most infamous of all the 12 apostles. In the film, Judas portrays Jesus, not as a miracle worker, but as a real human being with faults, doubts, and most importantly, a superstar edge. "The play is a baroque fusion of styles, rock rhythm with ballad narrative, dramatic characterization with rollicking choreography, and operatic star performances that together paradoxically succeed in communicating a humble theme of love and acceptance." ^1 The holy theme of divinity is combined with biblical history and a modern perception to produce a musical of heavenly proportions. Although there is some "divine" symbolism in the film, it never once shows Jesus embodying any immortal characteristics.
The movie tends to focus on the realistic aspects of Christ's lasts days on Earth. The last days of Jesus's life, in Jesus Christ Superstar, is comparatively close to the what is written in the Bible. Jesus, a rabbi, lived in Israel during the Roman rule. "Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his public ministry" (Luke 3: 23). He taught for approximately three years about a just, all-loving, and merciful God that offers forgiveness of sins and eternal life. He spoke of the honesty of spirit, fullness of right purpose, and that the poor and suffering shall be blessed.
He did this all while claiming to be the Son of Man. "We are told that Jesus taught a new idea-that the prophecies of the Torah [a document that recorded the basis of Judaism] were not to be fulfilled at some indefinite time in the future but were unfolding in the present." ^2 As Jesus made his way toward Jerusalem, the number of his followers had increased dramatically and his name was known throughout the land, he had literally become a "superstar." Rumours spread that Jesus had performed miracles beyond belief such as healing the cripple and bringing life to the dead. Jesus eventually upset the priests of Jerusalem, Sadducees, due to the fact that the number of followers Jesus's had increased so drastically, they feared losing the basis of their religion and the business it generated... A good example of Jesus's confrontation with the chief priest's business is when Jesus clears the temple. Jesus had arrived at the temple for prayer during Passover, only to find that his fathers home was being used to sell oxen, sheep, and patrons conducting business. "When he had made a whip of cords, he drove them all out the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables." ^3 Jesus then exclaimed to the crowd, "Take these things away! Do not make my father's house a house of merchandise!" (John 2: 16) Acts like these led the Sadducees to begin planning out Jesus' betrayal and murder...
The final days of Jesus's life were at hand. He had foreseen the betrayal and denial of two of his apostles, and he made it known to them at his noteworthy last supper. During the last super, Jesus proclaims that one of his "faithful" disciples will deny him three times, and another would lead to betray him. Judas, an apostle, then asked Jesus, "Is It I Rabbi?" Jesus then replies, "Thou hast said it." Judas then gave Jesus a kiss, in which Jesus's response was, 'Judas, dost thou betray the Son of Man with a kiss?' (Luke 22: 48) It is after this encounter that Judas Iscariot took the initiative to go to the chief priests in order to betray Jesus. They offer Judas a reward, thirty pieces of silver, which he took willingly.
'And Satan entered into Judas, who was surnamed Iscariot, one of the twelve. And he went, and discoursed with the chief priests and the magistrates, how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and covenanted to give him money. And he promised. And he sought opportunity to betray him in the absence of the multitude' (Luke 22, 3-6). After Judas had betrayed Jesus, he learned that Jesus was to be sentenced to death and he was filled with remorse.
He then went back to the temple and gave the thirty pieces of silver back to the chief priests and then went out to hang himself. Judas' betrayal led to Jesus's trial before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. Pilate asked him many times if he were the King of the Jews, in which Jesus replied, "Yes, it is as you say." Then, the chief priests made their accusations against him and Jesus completely silent." It was the governors custom to release one prisoner to the crowd each year during Passover. Pilate asked the crowd who they wanted released. He suggested Jesus be released, yet they chose to release the criminal Barabbas. Pilate knew that the chief priests only arrested Jesus out of envy, and told the crowds to let him be.
Meanwhile, the chief priests were encouraging the crowd to ask for Jesus to be crucified. A riot was beginning to develop, so Pilate asked for a bowl of water and washed his hands in front of the crowd and said, "I am innocent of the blood of this man. The responsibility is yours." (Matthew 27: 24) The crowd responded and said that they were willing to take full responsibility for his death-them and their children. Therefore, Pilate released Barabbas and sent Jesus to the Roman soldiers in order to have him crucified.
"A man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was coming in from the country just then, and they forced him to carry Jesus' cross. And they brought Jesus to a place called Golgotha. They offered him wine drugged him with myth, but he refused it. Then they nailed him to the cross." (Mark 15: 21-24) Jesus was nailed to the cross early in the morning and the Roman soldiers nailed a sign above Jesus' head that translated meant, "The King of The Jews." All those who passed Jesus mocked him and verbally abused him. Then, around three o'clock in the afternoon, Jesus screamed out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" Then Jesus yelled out again and took his last breath. After Jesus' death, his remaining followers began to spread the word about him.
They eventually came into a dispute with Paul of Tarsus (St. Paul), who was never afraid to advertise his "anti-Christian" opinions. He eventually converted to Christianity and later became a saint. The old pagan gods were being dismissed and the new faith, Christianity, began to grow immensely.