Some of you may remember the old TV commercial when Robert Young (previously the star of "Marcus Welby, M.D.") famously said, "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on television." I think he was selling aspirin or something.
I got to thinking about that line when I ran across Ted Neely's story. Since the 1970s, Ted Neeley has been playing the part of Jesus in the musical "Jesus Christ Superstar."
He's 64 years old, roughly 30 years older than Jesus was when He went to the cross. But no matter his age, Neely keeps playing Jesus to large audiences. Neeley recently said this:
I'm only playing Jesus. He got it right the first time. I'm still working on it, you see. The key word there is 'playing.' I'm a performer. I'm pretending to be something which I am not.
If this quote were applied to our faith, there is something I can relate to as a follower of Jesus. But, there is also something here that bothers me.
As for what troubles me, genuine disciples are not "pretending to be" anything. We understand faith is not a role to be performed. Faith is a life transformed. Heroes of faith are not great actors on stage. They are ordinary men and women who have taken the words of Jesus seriously when He says "lay your life down" (John 15:13) or "take up your cross" (Luke 9:23).
This is what you might call "Bill Parcels theology." You know how he is fond of saying, "You are what you are." That applies.
I was thinking about this recently, watching the Dallas Cowboys get blasted by the Philadelphia Eagles and lose out on the playoffs. "You are what you are ..." Well, they are not so good. Which brings me full circle, back to Marcus Welby and that aspirin ...