This is about the stage musical. For the film, see Godspell (1973 film).

Godspell is a 1971 musical based on the Gospel of St. Matthew.



The Voice of God declares his supremacy, before philosophers from throughout the ages enter and sing fragments of their respective philosophies. In response, John the Baptist beckons them to prepare a way for The Lord, and baptizes the company. Jesus comes, also to be baptized. John responds by, instead, asking to be baptized by Jesus. Jesus explains that it is not his place to baptize; that he has come to save.

In his first parable, Jesus explains to the company that he has come "not to abolish the law and the prophets, but to complete". Jesus explains to the company that those who adhere to the law of God will earn the highest place in the Kingdom of God. He tells them the parable of the Widow and the Judge. God is a just jurist who will support those who cry out to him. The company begins to understand Jesus and his teachings, and they take it upon themselves to tell the story of the Pharisees and the tax gatherer praying in the temple:

As Jesus teaches of the law regarding the offering of gifts at the altar, the company makes offerings—themselves. They are taught that to approach the altar of God, they must be pure of heart and soul. Then, they act out the story of a master and a servant who owes him a debt. Jesus explains the moral: "Forgive your brothers from your heart." Jesus then teaches that if one part of you offends God, it is better to lose it than to have the whole of the body thrown into hell.

The company then plays charades, before performing the Parable of the Good Samaritan in the form of a play-within-a-play. Jesus explains the need to "love your enemies", and "not make a show of religion before men". He goes on to say: "God will reward a good deed done in secret."

The parable of Lazarus and the rich man is next tackled by the company, who are quickly learning how to work together. Jesus teaches that no man can serve two masters—God and money. A member of the company tells a story of a man who spent a lifetime acquiring the good things in life, then dies before he has the time to enjoy them. Jesus tells them not to worry about tomorrow: "Tomorrow will take care of itself. Today has problems of its own."

Later, the company recites the Beatitudes. Judas, however, directs the final beatitude regarding persecution at Jesus, and Jesus quickly changes the subject. However, with this Jesus persuades the company that it is all for the best; heaven contains the ultimate reward. This is followed by the parable of the Sower of the Seeds, which Jesus tells them represent the Word of God. Finally, the community now march as soldiers in the military, signifying their ability to think as one unit. With Jesus as the drill sergeant, they segue into the famous Parable of the Prodigal Son and sing about how Christ's light should shine in each of us.

At this point, several members of the community begin to question Jesus's authority, and he responds with yet another parable. He is asked, "What is the greatest commandment?" and responds, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul... And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" The Pharisees continue to question him, and he laments and calls them hypocrites.

Jesus predicts that he will not be seen for quite a while and predicts great wars and famines. He reminds us of the time of Noah, and teaches that faith can calm the storm. One woman is cast out as an adulteress. Jesus says: "Let the one of you who is faultless cast the first stone." Her accusers then bow their heads and walk away. As the woman watches Jesus walk from her, she entreats him to remain with her, as Judas foretells his upcoming betrayal.

In one of the lighter moments in the second act, Jesus tells how he will separate men as a shepherd separates his flock into sheep and goats. The sheep will enter heaven while the goats must suffer eternal damnation. The company then assemble for the Last Supper, and Jesus tells them that one of them will betray him. Each member of the community asks, "Is it I?" ending with Judas: "Rabbi...can you mean me?" Jesus tells him to do quickly what he must do, and Judas runs off. Jesus breaks the bread and shares the wine and tells his followers that they will dine together in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus says goodbye to the company members and asks that they wait for him as he goes into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.

In the garden, Jesus implores God that if there is another way, to let the burden be lifted from his shoulders. Jesus returns to his followers to find them all asleep; he begs them to stay awake, but they all fall asleep again, and Jesus warns them they will all betray him three times. Jesus then prays to God that if his death cannot pass him by, then His will must be done. He is then tempted by Satan, but orders him away.

Judas returns to betray Jesus, but has a moment where he cannot bring himself to do it, but finds himself boxed in by invisible walls, except for one path which leads to Jesus. Jesus encourages Judas to do what he has come to do, and Judas grabs Jesus to bring him to be crucified. The community starts to attack Judas, while Jesus tells them to stop, as all who live by the sword will one day die by it. Judas ties Jesus upon an electric fence - representative of the cross - as Jesus berates him for arresting him at night, but then says that it had to happen to fulfill the prophets' writings. Jesus dies upon the fence, and is carried off.

Musical numbersEdit

Act I
  • "Prologue: Towers of Babble" - Company
  • "Prepare Ye The Way of the Lord" - John the Baptist and Company
  • "Save the People" - Jesus and Company
  • "Day By Day" - Soloist 1 and Company
  • "Learn Your Lessons Well" - Soloist 2, Jesus, and Company
  • "O Bless the Lord" - Soloist 3 and Company
  • "All for the Best" - Jesus, Judas, and Company
  • "All Good Gifts" - Soloist 4 and Company
  • "Light of the World" - Soloist 5 and Company
Act II
  • "Learn Your Lessons Well" (Reprise) - Company
  • "Turn Back, O Man" - Soloist 6 and Company
  • "Alas for You" - Jesus
  • "By My Side" - Soloist 7 and Company
  • "Beautiful City" - Jesus/Soloist 8
  • "We Beseech Thee" - Soloist 9 and Company
  • "Day By Day" (Reprise) - Company
  • "On The Willows" - The Band
  • "Finale" - Jesus and Company

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