First Movie After Prison

“Shortly after being paroled, a friend asked me if I wanted to see “Jesus Christ, Superstar.”

“Sure, why not?” I replied.

And we watched it. I loved it. I bought the soundtrack. I watched it again. I played the soundtrack (on my walkman) as I performed the duties of Minister of Sanitation (a.k.a. janitor) at the First Baptist Church of Newhall, California.

Then some folks in the church overheard the music.

And I stepped into the world of legalism…the world of Christians confusing their preferences with their convictions.

And I gracefully ignored them. At the pastor’s behest I did not listen to the music while on the church grounds. Soon they stupidly asked me to be the youth director (this was in 1977!) No internet, no quick way to check my record.

Consciously or unconsciously, the leadership must have felt if they had a youth guy who was an alcoholic, Nam vet, exconvict it would draw teens…I use the word “stupid because all they knew of me is what I told them. I could have been a rapist or child molester for goodness’ sake! One of the conditions of the job was that I not listen to nor recommend the soundtrack to the teens. I didn’t.

ANYway, I continued to listen to the music. And I watched the movie often.

I think I see some of you dear readers shaking your head.

That’s cool. If it is wrong for you to watch or listen to JC Superstar, don’t.

Why did I like the music and movie so much? After all, it was a convenient bring the bread and the mayo, the movie provided the cheese.

Not a huge budget, not any recognizable stars.

So why?

Because in watching the movie this very young in faith Christian (I was converted in a Texas jail in 1977 enroute to an Oregon State Prison) I realized that the original Jesus Freaks (the disciples) were just ordinary dummies like me.

Before the movie I thought they were superstars themselves.

But they were fishermen who couldn’t catch fish, scumbag taxcollectors; just average Joes doing their life when that life was invaded by Jesus Christ.

Kinda like me.

And for the first time I began to think…hey, maybe God could even use me!

And that was the first baby step that led to vocational youth/prison/church ministry that has now gone on for over forty decades. (what is such a young guy like me doing in such an old body???) Because God can use ANYthing and ANYone. With or without our permission.

Oh, and about the movie?

Billy Graham observed that though the movie was not his cup of tea, he did enjoy watching it, and his only complaint was that the story ended at the cross.

I was privileged to see/hear Doctor Graham three times. I never had a chance to talk with him.

But he was wrong.

It did not end at the cross.

You have to watch the movie to get it…but at the conclusion of the film all the actors are getting back on the bus (I told you you had to watch the movie to get it)…oops, not quite all…Jesus does not get aboard.

And the last scene is of Judas (interestingly played by a black man), the last to get on the bus, pausing for a moment, and looking over his shoulder as if to wonder where Jesus is…

I’m not an artistic man, but I think that is a not so subtle way of pointing to the resurrection.

If you’ve never seen it, watch it Bring your own bread. Crank the speakers. And let me know what you think.

Here’s a sample:

Author: Jack Hager

Jesus invaded my life shortly after my arrest at age 26. I spent the first few years of my new life incarcerated. Went to Bible school after parole; have served with Kansas City Youth For Christ, Headwaters Christian Youth (Rhinelander, Wi), Family Life Ministries (Bath, NY), and now with Midland Ministries (Saint Joseph, Mo). Married with four children, work with youth, adults, inmates. Heavily involved in Bible quizzing for four decades. Narrow minded about Jesus and the gospel; fairly open minded about most other things. Speak in churches, camps (both teen and family), civic groups, public schools, Christian schools and colleges...amazed I get to do what I get to do....favorite verse Romans 15.13 "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that you, by the power of the Holy Spirit, may overflow with hope."

2 thoughts on “First Movie After Prison”

  1. I acted in a local theater version of this toward the end of my high school years. I played the part of Ciaphas and did so a little too naturally – all the kids in the cast (necessary for the “hosannas”) were terrified of me even when I wasn’t in costume. It didn’t directly lead me to Christ in any sense, but it was a catalyst later on for seeing my sin as it was and needing a savior.

    I also still listen to and love the soundtrack, though admittedly it’s not based on the best theology, haha. I’ve never seen the movie itself though.

  2. Interesting enough now 2 people I really respect: Mike Bobbitt and yes you, really liked that play/movie? I have never seen it because everyone else told me it was sacrilegious and made fun of the Gospel! Now I have began to re think my opinion 🤔

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