It was in April 2022 when Jesus suddenly drove a bus in the Ruhr area, stocked up on bread for his evening meal at a snack bar and was finally arrested by humorless German police officers.

“The Passion”, an extremely interesting conglomerate of Bible scenes, everyday German city life, musical interludes and celebrity casserole, staged by RTL, had its premiere – and sometimes caused enthusiasm, sometimes astonishment (“God, save us,” tweeted Jan Böhmermann). But, as with Jesus after his last breath on the cross: the story was not yet finished.

On Wednesday (March 27th, 8:15 p.m.) “The Passion” celebrates its comeback as a new interpretation of the death and resurrection of Jesus – with new personnel, new songs and in new locations. After the NRW city of Essen was able to witness the suffering of the Savior two years ago, RTL is now staging the large-scale production in Kassel in northern Hesse. Presenter and singer Ben Blümel (“Engel”) will be seen as Jesus, succeeding Alexander Klaws (40, “Germany is looking for the superstar”). RTL has hired actor and singer Jimi Blue Ochsenknecht (32) to play the traitor Judas. Mother Maria is portrayed by singer Nadja Benaissa (41, No Angels). For the “Passion” they sing well-known pop songs that are interwoven with the Jesus story.

Full of anointing and biblical

In official communiqués, the protagonists are relatively unctuous and biblical in their approach to the topic. Actor Francis Fulton-Smith (57), who plays Pontius Pilate, announced: “Pilate was always against condemning Jesus! From today’s perspective, however, he contributed a large part to the success of the Christian faith, because without crucifixion there is no resurrection! Without resurrection no mercy and the unconditional love of God towards people and creation.”

Nevertheless, the whole constellation, which lies somewhere between a premium musical and a bit of a gossip column, also has latent potential for humor – which should not be detrimental to the attention on social networks. For example, former football manager Reiner Calmund (75), who was already in Essen and ate a sausage in the presence of Jesus, will be seen in a guest role again. In the first RTL photos you can already see young people posing on modern e-scooters.

Kassel doesn’t necessarily have the reputation of being very similar to the Holy Land, even if there are various and justified defenses (“Why Kassel is the most beautiful city in Germany”, “Der Spiegel”). The main stage (75 tons of technology) will be located at the central Friedrichsplatz, one of the largest inner-city squares in Germany. It is also the central location of the five-yearly documenta art exhibition, which recently came under criticism due to allegations of anti-Semitism. There were 8,000 tickets for spectators – according to Kassel Marketing GmbH, all were booked.

Kassel is hoping for a boost

In the city, it is hoped that the audience of millions of “Passion” will give a boost to the city’s popularity and tourism. During the first production in Essen, for example, the “Rüttenscheider Schlemmermeile” achieved unexpected prominence.

“The production of ‘The Passion’ is huge. As a musician, I sang on such a big stage 15 years ago,” says Ben Blümel. The 42-year-old had a mega hit with “Engel” in 2002. Back then he usually wore a hat and was only called by his first name. Today he does a lot of children’s television as a presenter. He answers the not unjustified question of whether Jesus will wear a hat in 2024: “I’ll put it this way: Jesus will have a lot less hair than he did two years ago.”

When he first called, he briefly considered whether someone was having fun with him, says the singer. He didn’t expect that. But now he’s “very keen”. “Recently I’ve sung in private or during my presentations, but then only two or three songs,” he reports. His voice is now being made fit to be able to “rock a live show” for two and a half hours. Blümel actually already had his first mission as a savior: At an appointment in Kassel, he went to a clinic as a precaution because of a stye in his eye, as he tells it. “When I came to the clinic, the staff there immediately said: “Oh Jesus, what happened?”

Jimi Blue Ochsenknecht also reports that he was initially unsure about the request. “I probably wouldn’t have played Jesus. In my career I’ve actually always played the good guy and the sonny boy,” he says. “I got a little tired of that.” But he really liked the idea of ​​Judas. “I can show a more emotional side of me, sometimes a little more evil – even though I know that Judas wasn’t just evil.” Ochsenknecht also did another vocal coaching session for the role. “Religion is a serious topic and I want to give it the necessary respect.”

How seriously the matter is taken in Kassel can be found out from the diocese of Fulda, in whose territory the city is located. It says: “A circle of worshipers regularly prays in advance for the preparations and the success of the production.”