Early last year I read the enthralling novel, The Songs of Jesse Adams. If you don’t know the story, it depicts what it might be like if Jesus came to Melbourne in the 1960s or '70s.

Well, I recently went and saw the Gateway Promotions Theatre Company's production of this story, and it was even better than the book.

 The Songs of Jesse Adams

"As I watched this production play out though, I found myself close to tears as the enormity of Jesus' impact on people's lives hit me with renewed force."

Written by Melbourne author Peter McKinnon, the story follows the life of young musician, Jesse Adams, as he sets out to find his life's purpose. As he gets a band together and they tour up and down the east coast of Australia, Jesse realises there is something more to his life than he planned. And the rapturous response to not just his music, but his character, just confirms that there is something very different about this man. There is something in him that speaks directly to people's hearts.

The attraction of this story is in the fact that it brings to life the spine-tingling attraction of who Jesus is. McKinnon beautifully weaves the events of Jesus' life into the unfolding drama of Jesse's existence. Parables and stories from the Gospels are retold against the backdrop of the radical social change of the era. It is contextually brilliant.

When we think of Jesus today, 2,000 years from when He walked the earth, it is easy to spiritualise His life and imagine it with a sort of 'halo effect'. As I watched this production play out though, I found myself close to tears as the enormity of Jesus' impact on people's lives hit me with renewed force.

The sign of a good production for me is what it does to my emotions. As I sat watching each scene, I was deeply touched, feeling the impact of Jesus on all those around him, from his closest friends to the bitter enemies his love-filled life inevitably created.

The Songs of Jesse Adams paints Jesse, aka Jesus, at his Spirit-filled, radical, passionate, loving best. In Jesse, I saw again the Jesus I fell in love with back when I was a teenager. I saw the Jesus who touches you to the very core of your identity, the one who you realise you really do believe in. I saw the Jesus who is unflinching in His care for the outsider, for the misfit. And I saw the Jesus who was absolutely unafraid to take on the powers that be for their hypocrisy and oppression of the little people.

As Jesse’s life unfolds, you quickly see how his love for the unloved inevitably brings him into conflict with the powerful of the day. With prophetic precision that cuts straight to the heart, the powerful hypocrites are shown to be politicians, the media and the church, all absolutely committed to protecting the status quo. When you lift up the powerless, it is a threat to those in power. Jesse Adams brought this to life with sharp, convicting clarity.

Jesse Adams’ Jesus moved me to want to be a better person. This is what I believe Jesus ultimately does for each of us. It is said that God loves us as we are, but too much to leave us there. Perhaps the chorus of one of Jesse’s songs sums it up best:

You can waste away in a safer place
You’ll get by, you’ll survive,
But are you alive?
Are you really alive?

This was the impact Jesus had on people. He infuses us with an energy that compels us to want to be better than we are. I don’t mean this in the sense that we are not good enough now, but that we are drawn to be more human, more ourselves, which is ultimately to become more like Jesus himself. This was what touched me when watching The Songs of Jesse Adams. I walked out of there wanting to go back to the Gospels and read them over. But this time I wanted to read them with the earthy Jesus in mind, the Son of Man, the Human One, not the Jesus we can tend to spiritualise and so remain distant from.

I walked out of this performance irresistibly attracted again to the assertive Jesus, the Jesus who never took a backward step. I was drawn again to the Jesus who loved without fear and who walked all over the social conventions of his day because he knew that his love was more important than anything. 

This story has shown in a way that is more powerful than anything I have known for many years that Jesus really is relevant to all of life, that He really is who He said He is. McKinnon has told me of his passion for showing how Jesus is relevant to life in the 21st century. The Songs of Jesse Adams is powerful testament to that.

In the end, The Songs of Jesse Adams drew me closer to the Jesus of the Gospels. No more powerful compliment can be given than that.

~ www.songsofjesseadams.com