Do any of us truly know how to love Jesus? He scares me so. I want Him so. I love Him so. These are the last three lines of lyrics from the hit song I Don’t Know How to Love Him, from the 1970 rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. Today I want to look deeper into those three lines. I invite you to read more.
I was 13 years old when the album Jesus Christ Superstar was released. After buying the album, I soon memorized all of the lyrics to every song. I sang along with the music at every chance I had. This past Easter Sunday a new updated version of the Jesus Christ Superstar was aired on television. Watching it brought back many memories. Still today, there is one song from this musical, more than any other, that really moves me and it is the song I Don’t Know How to Love Him.
Yvonne Elliman sang this song on the original album, in the movie soundtrack, and on Broadway where she played the role of Mary Magdalene. The song was a huge success. In all of these formats Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice represented Mary Magdalene as a repentant prostitute.
In a somewhat Dan Brown like fictional fashion, this song creates sexual tension between the character Mary Magdalene and Jesus. I will ask my reader to move past that aspect, to see some deeper questions that the song brings forth.
There is some confusion surrounding the character Mary Magdalene in the various Gospel accounts. Was Mary Magdalene the one from whom seven demons were removed? Was she a prostitute? Was she the one who poured the oil onto Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her tears? Was she the first one at the tomb on Easter Sunday morning? Overtime, many Christians have rolled all of these Mary’s into the one we now know as Mary Magdalene. My purpose today is not one of biblical exegesis on the topic of which Mary is which.
Today we are going to investigate the lyrics of the song to see what we can personally gain from them. Therefore, for the purpose of this writing, I will assume that Mary Magdalene was a repentant prostitute, even though the Bible never explicitly tells us that.
In the song, Mary wrestled with her reaction to Jesus. She was confused as to how to respond to Him. Maybe we are too! Perhaps a question we should all ask ourselves is: “Who is Jesus and how am I supposed to respond to Him.”
“I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” by Weber and Rice sets forth the tension within Mary as to how she is supposed to react to Jesus. Was Jesus someone that she was physically attracted to? Was Jesus someone that she was sexually attracted to? Why was this Jesus so different from all other men? How had Jesus managed to transform her so? Why was she so spiritually attracted to Him? Was Jesus her Messiah? How would following Jesus forever change her? The song sets forth a question for all of us: How am I supposed to react to Jesus Christ?
In a slightly different format than normal, my main purpose today is to draw from the song’s lyrics to create a series of questions that we should all pray over, think about and maybe discuss with someone else.
“I’ve been changed, yes really changed
In these past few days, when I’ve seen myself
I seem like someone else.”
How has knowing and following Jesus changed your life?
“I don’t see why he moves me”
Why are you so moved by Jesus Christ? What feeling does Jesus stir up inside of you?
“Should I speak of love
Let my feelings out?”
Do you often speak to others about the love Jesus has shared with you? How do you let your feelings of love for Jesus be known to others?
“Yet, if he said he loved me
I’d be lost. I’d be frightened
I couldn’t cope, just couldn’t cope
I’d turn my head. I’d back away
I wouldn’t want to know”
Does it ever frighten you to be a follower of Jesus? Have you ever turned away from Jesus? Why?
“He scares me so”
In what ways does being a Disciple of Jesus scare you?
“I want him so”
What one thing most demonstrates just how much you want Jesus in your life?
“I love him so”
How can you best show your love for Jesus?
Our answers to the questions above shed some light on how we might answer a much more important question. At some point in life, each of us must answer this question from Jesus: “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” How will you answer?
My sincere hope today is that by reflecting on our answers to these questions, each of us will be as deeply moved as Mary Magdalene was.
Heavenly Father, your Son Jesus so beautifully demonstrated His enormous love for me by dying on the cross to forgive my sins and by rising from the dead to open the gates of Heaven. Please help me to know how to Love your Son in return, amen!
As always, I love to read your comments below as well as hear from you personally by clicking here.
I want to thank everyone at St. Vincent de Paul in New Martinsville, WV who made this past weekend’s retreat a Christ filled experience. Thank you for your gracious hospitality. I was blessed to spend this time with you. May God’s blessings be with you.