Wednesday, April 8 marks UMHB’s participation in the most important Christian celebration in the world.
This annual interpretation of the biblical passion of Christ will celebrate its 70th production.
As an honored tradition, administrators do not take its preparation lightly. In fact, the selection process for a student to portray Christ begins weeks before the previous year’s showings.
Senior history major, Luke Beasley, came highly recommended when selected by President Jerry G. Bawcom as the 2009 Easter Pageant Jesus.
The job of portraying a perfect human being has weighed on this individual throughout the production’s life.
Although Jesuses note they are not perfect, trying to do their best at living a Jesus-centered life takes on a new meaning.
Senior assistant Easter Pageant director, Jeremy Kee, said that students who portray Jesus must handle pressures of being in the public eye. They need to understand the role and know it is not about how good they can be for a year, but using the position to showcase Jesus’ teachings while applying them to their lives.
Kee said Beasley did just that.
“In the past, other Jesuses have tried to become Jesus, but (Beasley) tries to implement His teachings, His way of doing things into his daily life.”
Kee said as a respected student to begin with, Beasley was a pretty good guy before being chosen as Jesus last year, so the transformation in his lifestyle changed little as he assumed the role.
Beasley’s character has shown through being labeled Jesus.
“He has handled it particularly well because the person portraying Jesus is thrust into the spotlight on campus for a full calendar year. People identify him as Jesus, and being in front of everyone is not who (Beasley) is,” Kee said. “He is a private guy. He has handled the monumental shift in lifestyle remarkably well. When people make Jesus jokes, he lets them have their fun, because he knows that is part of the job. Considering who he is and his laid-back attitude (Beasley) has handled being the star of the campus quite well.”
Student Affairs administrative assistant, Joy Childress, has supervised Beasley for the past four years while he worked in her office as a student worker.
She said Beasley’s growth over the years has prepared him for this position.
“He is one of the most amazing human beings I have gotten to work with,” Childress said.
She said his dependable character, kind heart and loving spirit make him rock solid.
As he tries to be real and only what he is, many look up to him.
Childress said, “I have always experienced Easter Pageant as a spectator, and I never realized the work put into it on the other side. From the very beginning, he has been committed to the cause of using this event as a way to spread the gospel. He has withstood the joking, criticism and frustration of the position and been unchanged in his character and attitude to life.”
She said Beasley imitates Christ’s strength and humbleness in everything.
For the now shaggy-haired Beasley, being chosen as Jesus came as a shock and was a bit overwhelming.
“I remember when I was first asked I wasn’t really sure if it was real. It kind of felt surreal. It is a huge honor, and I don’t think you ever really think of yourself as being in that role,” he said.
Stepping into the position taught Beasley to understand people’s perception of something is their reality of it even if not based on truth. This concept has led him from the beginning to live in such a way that people would not question his motives or actions.
He said he views the constant public watching not as a pressure to be good but as accountability to bring awareness that his life needed pruning.
Beasley said portraying Jesus brings different responses. Sometimes people don’t know his name, but they know he is the 2009 Jesus, while others know him but have not clue about his part in Easter Pageant.
“Many people who might not be in the usual UMHB crowd or involved with Easter Pageant will ask me questions about it. This opportunity allows me to tell them what it is about. I explain it is not just a production or play. It is a tool for people to learn about Jesus in a different way which brings it to life,” he said.
Beasley said he has always strived to show one face, and, as Jesus, this pursuit for authenticity became more apparent, knowing people are looking at him to be genuine with them.
“Being Jesus is not just at practice. It is a continual, year-long commitment to the production and its ministry,” he said.
Through the process of taking on the role, Beasley said he has begun to unpack Jesus as a deity, as a human and as the blameless lamb.
He said, “It is crazy to comprehend someone perfect would die for someone imperfect.”
This led him to see that in everyone’s daily life someone views them as Christ.
Beasley said, “We are all someone’s Jesus. So how much more careful should we be in what we say, do or where we go.”