What I Told John Legend About Jesus And Jesus Christ Superstar

By Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of sharing closing comments and a prayer on a call with Josh Dubois, CEO of Values Partnerships, John Legend and 500 faith leaders to share our excitement about Mr. Legend’s leading role in Jesus Christ Superstar.  

It was powerful for me to be calling in from the Holy Land, where I was on a pilgrimage of hope with friends of Auburn Seminary, where I am President.  I walked the roads where Jesus walked, prayed where Jesus prayed, visited the holy sites where Jesus was born and crucified and was moved to tears on the Sea of Galilee where Jesus met his disciples after his resurrection.   We met people on the ground who were on the margins, who were suffering and yet who were working for a just solution to the violent conflict that plagues the Holy Land to this day.

Let me say that it felt right to be talking about Jesus to Mr. Legend, whose work I admire, and whose Glory, and rendition of Redemption Song have been on my spiritual soundtrack for the past years.

Here is what I said to Mr. Legend and I hope you’ll join me in this one-night-only experience tonight, Easter Sunday, April 1 on NBC of Jesus Christ Superstar with John Legend playing Jesus of Nazareth.  

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Good evening! And thank you, Josh for the invitation and John Legend for your words and witness. I’m excited to be on this call tonight because I’m here in Israel/Palestine where it’s 3 am and where Jesus and the prophets walked and so many of our religious traditions converge.

I was 15 when Jesus Christ superstar burst onto the scene, and I sang every word of every song over and over again. It’s possible that I’m a minister and seminary president today because of it. Growing up in a church where Jesus had been whitened and tamed, it was the first time that I realized that Jesus was wild and revolutionary. That Jesus loved women and they loved him.

We need JC Superstar now—through John Legend, a superstar, who already symbolizes liberation and the glory that we yearn for. John, you can remind us of the Jesus who preached revolutionary love; who was a superhero not through traditional forms of power but of vulnerability; who was despised and outcast and loved people on the margins most of all.

This is a time when we need to learn what it means to love blackness, that resurrection is possible and that death will not have the last word. We see signs of resurrection life from the March for our Lives and Black Lives Matter, to the Women Wage Peace movement here in Israel. And we’re going to feel it in our bodies as we hear John Legend in Jesus Christ Superstar as we have through his rendition of Redemption Song and Glory from the movie Selma.

May it be so.

Closing Prayer

God of all creation,As close as the air we breathe, greater than all our imaginings. We give thanks for this particular story of revolutionary love in the person of Jesus that transcends time and space; Now use your servant John Legend that we might see and hear your story anew for such a time as this; Thereby renew our spirits and make us bold to call for truth and challenge the forces of empire, as we fight for love with justice. And with you create a future where difference is celebrated, abundance is shared and people are hopeful, working together for a glorious future, better than today.

This prayer and the prayers of our hearts we pray in the name of the one who is our strength and our song. Amen.

Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson is President of Auburn Seminary.


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