Emotional journey: Gary on the Cross in the final scene of Jesus Christ Superstar. <em>*Photo by Michael Swain</em>
Emotional journey: Gary on the Cross in the final scene of Jesus Christ Superstar. *Photo by Michael Swain

WEDNESDAY, APR. 4: Last year I was privileged to play the title role in the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Bermuda’s Jesus Christ Superstar. 

As a Christian, portraying my Saviour on stage was both an honour and a huge responsibility.

As Easter approaches, I have found myself reflecting on the impact that this experience had on me.

Although I do not consider ‘JCS’ to be ‘Gospel truth’, so to speak, like most writings that feature Jesus it can’t avoid igniting a fascination with the character.

As I ‘travelled’ through the story of Jesus during each performance at City Hall, there was plenty to ponder and much to learn.

Frailty

While we are able to look at the story from the Bible with the end in mind, Jesus, albeit certain in faith of His mission and His goal, was fully human and had not experienced the end of that mission.

He lived through every emotion, frustration, each terror, and the temptation to relent.

I was struck by the frailty of His humanity in the face of His enormous task.

What did He actually feel? What did He actually go through?

What does it mean to be both fully God and fully man?

I can only consider what I felt as I performed every night: Did He become irritated with friends who could not or would not understand what He was here to do, many of whom had their own ideas about how He should proceed?

Did He enjoy the friendship and affection of a woman who may have had some sense of the weight He was carrying, yet lacked the foresight to recognize He was a poor candidate for marriage?

Did He grow weary of the masses that He loved, who would in one moment plead for blessing and healing, and in the next abandon Him to tyrants, or worse — stand and squeal alongside those tyrants as they tortured Him? Did He wonder, ‘are they worth it?’

After His arrest, was Jesus’ resolve like stone throughout His ordeal, or was His resolve gradually broken down only to be built back up again by determination?

Did fear of suffering, anger at traitorous friends, or the sheer agony of flogging and crucifixion cause Him to falter?

As a man, I even wonder what went through His mind as He glanced at the beautiful Mary, with whom He could settle and raise a family if only He would give up His mission.

After the death of Jesus, I could hear the crying and torment from the disciples as they took me down from the Cross.

Some Christians take issue with ‘JCS’ because it does not feature a physical resurrection on stage.

I, however, see ‘JCS’ as a passion play that focuses on the emotional journey of the characters.

For Jesus’ friends, the world had just ended; this magnificent friend and leader had died horribly and they did not believe He was coming back.

Every night of performance, when we had left the stage following the final bows, I would find myself a corner and just weep wretchedly.

I had to fight to keep my (and my character’s) resolve throughout the production, so when it was over I needed to let it all come out.

I also wept out of thanks to God for allowing me this glimpse into a story far bigger than me, and out of humble acknowledgement that I do not understand more than a fraction of what Jesus went through.

Powerful

There’s no way I could offer an authentic interpretation of the real Jesus but the questions raised in my mind were worthy of reflection.

My tiny, two-hour journey in Jesus’ sandals left me wondering even more at the character of this man and the kind of love He loved with, and still loves with.

A powerful, determined love.

A love that, in some of those final moments of His life on Earth, was perhaps a love through gritted teeth?

Gary Foster Skelton is the Bermuda Sun’s photo editor and wrote a column last year about his mission to ‘shape up for Jesus’. He is a professional actor and singer.