Music for a Good Friday

Today is Good Friday. In Girl Meets God, Lauren Winner writes, "Good Friday is where that one grave and theological term, incarnation, most pointedly meets that other grave and theological term, atonement. Hanging there on the Cross, bleeding and in pain, He (and the capital H is especially important, as not just anyone's suffering would have had the same result) atones for our sins. Theologians have endlessly debated theories of the atonement, but on this basic fact all orthodox Christians can agree: through Christ's atoning work on the Cross, we fallen sinner are reconciled with God."

As I write this post, the song "Gethsemane", from Jesus Christ Superstar is playing in iTunes. I have it on repeat. About five years ago, I bought the 20th anniversary London cast recording of the rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Ever since, it's become a bit of a Good Friday tradition with me to listen to at least part of it. This song in particular. Yes, the theology of Rice and Webber errs a bit too far on the "fully human" nature of Jesus, at the expense of his simulataneous "fully divine" nature. But to be reminded that Jesus was fully human on the day that commemorates his suffering and death is a good thing. It's too easy to think that the fully divine aspect of his nature somehow took over and made the whole experience less than torture. Mel Gibson's, Passion of the Christ accomplished this also. Who could watch that movie and not understand the human pain involved?

Back to Jesus Christ Superstar. I remember being a young teenager when it first came out and playing the record over and over again. I remember writing the lyrics to "Gethsemane" into a notebook in purple ink while tears streamed down my cheeks. This song still waters my eyes. Recently I learned that a friend of mine came to faith as a teenager on a Good Friday afternoon while alone in her room listening to Ian Gillan ("Jesus" in the original recording) sing the work of Webber and Rice.

The Gospels quote Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane as telling his disciples that he was "grieved to the point of death" and praying to God that if it was possible to "let this cup pass from me," as he sweat "drops of blood."  The lyrics to and performance of Gethsemane (I Only Want to Say) effectively capture this agony.

To hear a few bars, click here. Alternatively, for 99 cents  you could download from iTunes an mp3 of the song as sung by Ian Gillan in the original (remastered) recording. For half the price of a cup of coffee, see if it doesn't move you too on this Good Friday afternoon.