Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King
November 21, 2021
The classic religious rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, continues to be performed on stages around the country. During Holy Week many of us find ourselves putting on the album or humming some of the music. What has always struck me is the portrayal of Pontius Pilate. The actor who created the original album role went on to portray Pilate on Broadway and on film.
Pilate is interested--for his own reasons--in the accusation that Jesus claims to be King of the Jews. There is a peculiar intimacy in the scene--captured well, I think, in the musical. Pilate can relate to the concept of kingship. He’s a politician and understands power and position. He presses his questions even as he misunderstands Jesus’ true kingship. For a brief instant Pilate even seems interested in “truth.” But in the end he falls back into his own limited notions of earthly power, and does what is expected of him as a functionary in the Roman system of government.
With dramatic irony however, the scene in John’s Gospel highlights a very different kind of kingship. Jesus stands before the world testifying to the truth. He has come to reveal the truth about God and invites us into his reign, which is not of this world. Rather it is a relationship--one in which we receive the very life of God.