Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Superman and Jesus


On June 14, 2013 the new Superman movie, Man of Steel, hits theaters.  I can't wait.  I'm not much of a comic book nerd, but I've always loved the superhero stories and the recent wave of movies that have come out from them.

With age, perhaps, I've also become more attuned to symbolism in movies, especially with symbolism that points to Jesus and His Gospel. 

The Superman story seems to borrow in many ways from the Ultimate Hero story, the story of Jesus.  The parallels are not that difficult to see.  You have a hero who comes down from another world in meekness and humility, as a little baby, and is raised by small-town parents. He does his best to cloak his god-like powers under a veil of humanity but ultimately reveals himself as the savior of the world. Though he is seen as a freak and rejected by many, he gives himself to fight the battles that the human race is powerless to fight for itself.

But on the other hand, there is as sense in which the Superman story is nothing like the Jesus story. In some ways Superman represents the image of man's dreams of a savior, an anti-Jesus if you will. Jesus was confronted with this during His earthly ministry as his Jewish disciples hoped very much that he would be the Messiah who would save Israel from all its earthly and temporal troubles and give them back the promised land. They hoped for a hero would would "beat the bad guys", getting rid of those Romans and setting the people of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob free.

This is what made the crucifixion of Jesus so completely disorienting to them. They had seen the miracles. They had seen the mighty words. They knew He was the One. And suddenly He is taken from them and killed.

They were hoping for a different kind of Savior. In fact, if Superman was a real person and lived at that time, they would have chosen him over Jesus. And we would today, too. Superman is the kind of hero that fulfills this dream. He "beats the bad guys" right here, right now.  

Jesus is not like that.  He did some miraculous things.  And sure, He stood up to Satan and cast out demons.  But Jesus is a different kind of Hero. He did not come down here, at least the first time, to right every wrong in the sense that we all hope for. He didn't come to put an end to cancer and the sex-slave trade. He didn't come to put an end to abusive men and child molestors. He didn't come to put an end to poverty and feed the hungry. He didn't come to stop drug-dealers and tyrants.  He came to die. He came to save us in a different way, in a way we didn't really want: He came to reconcile us to God. He came to bring us to God and to make a new people, a new kingdom of "priests", that are at peace with God and, through that, at peace with each other. That kingdom will birth, in time, a new creation where all of those "bad guys" and "bad things" are gone, but it started like a seed... A grain of wheat that fell to the earth, died, and will turn into an abundant harvest.

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