Friday, May 29, 2015

Godspell and the Parables (Part 6)

Godspell: Judas/John the Baptist

The next two parables, the Good Samaritan (who is portrayed as drunk) and the Rich Man and Lazarus, also emphasize the responsibilities that human beings have to take care of one another. As the disciples celebrate the compassion and actions of the Samaritan, Jesus warns them not to flaunt their acts of charity in public. Judas misunderstands, but Jesus corrects him. Judas is again rehabilitated, though, because he gets to narrate the next parable, the Rich Man and Lazarus. In this parable, Jesus does not offer a final conclusion; instead, they all start singing, “Bless the Lord.”

A dialogue between Jesus and Judas—done, as often is the case, in a vaudeville-like way—perhaps illustrates the whimsical nature of the Godspell Jesus and the dialogic nature of parables themselves:

Jesus: Now, how can you take the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye when all the time there’s this great plank in your own?

Judas: I don’t know. How can you take the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye when all the time there’s this great plank in your own?

Jesus: You hypocrite!  First you take the plank out of your own eye so you can see clearly to take the speck of sawdust out of your brother’s.

Judas: Wait a moment!  That’s no answer to the question.

Jesus: Did I promise you an answer to the question?

Judas: No.

The question is how applicable that response is to other questions in Godspell.

The next parable is the Sower, which Katie narrates to Jesus. She successfully tells the parable itself (Matt. 13:3-8), but she misunderstands its meaning. Jesus, then, has to give the correct interpretation of the parable (the seed is the “word of God”; Matt. 13:18:23). The group then sings “all Good Gifts,” which demonstrates that God is behind the growth of the seeds and that all good things come from God:

We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land,
But it is fed and watered by god’s almighty hand.
He sends the show in winter, the warmth of swell the grain,
The breezes and the sunshine and soft refreshing rain.

All good gifts around us are sent by heaven above.
So thank the lord,
O thank the lord,
For all his love.


The group then moves to Cherry Lane Theater, the off-Broadway location where the play became a success. It is there that the group narrates and acts out the parable of the Prodigal Son, one of the most interesting of the interpretations offered in the play/film. That's up next.

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