Last night, I spent quite a bit of time before bed writing to someone I’d met in the comment section of a Facebook post. They asserted that all of the world religions were more or less the same, and that invariably it didn’t matter which you followed. In their eyes, it was what my dad would call, “6 of one, 1/2 dozen of the other”.
But something different happens when we look closer. Something deeper emerges.
I’m a huge superhero fan. I think in our core, we all are. Or at least, the box office figures reflect that. The top grossing films of this decade – the ones that blew the doors off of the bank vaults -were of all things, comic book hero story lines set to a screenplay. Well, have you noticed invariably the one moment – the one plot twist they all share?
The redemptive sacrifice.
Take a look at these screen grabs with me…
Man of Steel…Clark Kent flies into the TerraForming unit that is destroying the Earth, and will most likely kill him
Batman, The Dark Knight. Bruce Wayne flies off into the harbor carrying a nuclear bomb which will destroy Gotham if left inside the city limits and certainly kill himself:
Iron Man’s Tony Stark flies into the wormhole in The Avengers, diverting a nuclear weapon launched at the city to defeat the alien horde that will kill the city’s inhabitants as well, putting his life in certain death danger:
And most recently, Captain America stays behind in the hover ship to save his lifelong friend “Bucky” who moments earlier was trying to kill him:
We sit at the edge of our seats and listen as Captain Rogers says, “The price of freedom is high….but it’s a price I’m willing to pay”.
We sit at the edge of our seat, and our hearts leap. We dare to question, “Is there someone who will save me? Who will lay their life down for me? Someone who can face the evil of this world and defeat death once and for all?” And we wait…not breathing, to see if the hero survives the sacrifice.
When I was a kid, I read “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe” by CS Lewis. There, I met my first superhero, “Aslan”. To save Edmund, and in turn, the world of Narnia, Aslan willingly gives himself to the Winter Witch, who ties him to the Stone Table and plunges a scabbard deep into his heart – killing him in the place of Edmund – as was her right in light of Edmund’s treachery.
But then, as dawn rises the next day…..Susan and Lucy see Aslan rise from the dead before their very eyes. Confused about what had happened, Aslan says,
“It means that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.“
I’ve searched across the world for the pre-cursors of this story embedded inside each one of our souls. The part of us that recognizes and longs for this story to be read aloud, replayed, resung. The story of the hero, sacrificing himself to save his friends….to save the world. The hope that he’s not really dead…and can overcome death itself in the doing.
Buddha didn’t do it. None of his incarnations, in fact.
Muhammad, didn’t do it.
Nor did Brigham Young, or Charles Russell.
None of the Avatars of Vishnu ever echo the story.
There’s only one.
Jesus turns to the world and says, as recorded by John, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”. He tells his friends in the upper room,
“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” When he could have run, he turns instead and walks steadfastly towards Golgatha, the “hill of the skull”. As he walks, whispering, “I have come that you may have life, and that more abundantly….”
Today, Good Friday – we gather in the theaters of our mind’s eye.
We sit and ask, “will he save us?”
We sit and wonder, “will death be defeated?”
We teeter at the edge of our seats, watching a rock sealed with cement over a cave…guarded by a legion of Roman soldiers asking, “Will he live?”
There’s a part of you – of everyone – that knows this story. That knows on Sunday – the rock will crack away. The light will pour through. The soldiers will be thrown back. Our hero, emerges – victorious over death.
We pay $10 plus popcorn over, and over, and over, and over, and over again to be reminded of the story. To hear it play out again and again and again. To see the hero lay on the stone table and display the deeper magic. Most have no clue what truly played out 2,000 years ago…the truth, and actuality of it documented in detail by countless Roman historians and hundreds of witnesses. It’s undeniable truth spreading even to this day across the globe.
Jesus was the original Superman. The first Batman. And could kick Tony Stark’s ass.
That’s why I love Him, and follow him.
Because, like Captain Rogers and “Bucky”, while we were enemies, he still loved me, and laid his life down for me. When he was finished, he literally flew into the sky as he told everyone he was coming back for the final battle. And when faced with the question, “are all religions the same?” our hero lays back on the cross as the nails are driven through his wrists and says, “Father, forgive them….they have no idea what they’re doing“. When his last breath leaves his lungs declares, “It is finished“. Peerless. Unequaled….whispering,
…..”you can’t do this….I have to….it’s why I came…..but wait….just give me 3 days….”
I love this story.
I love that it actually happened. I love that I get to participate in it, and be His hands and feet until he returns. When he does, it’s going to be bad ass…the ultimate season finale.