Friday, April 6, 2012

Jesus Christ, Superman - Part 2

Since his creation by two Jewish teenagers in 1932, Superman has been an American icon, and - as I mentioned last time - whether it was intentional from the beginning or not, his story serves as a sort of modern-day parallel to the life of Jesus Christ.

Over the years, Superman has appeared in many forms in comic books, radio, television, and film. Perhaps your favorite Superman is in print, but maybe you love the Fleischer cartoons of the '40s, the George Reeves version from the 1950s, the Christopher Reeve version from the '80s, or any of countless other incarnations.

A few years ago, Amber and I discovered the series, Smallville, which focuses on young Clark Kent before he fully became Superman. We didn't watch when it first began, but we've been playing catch-up on DVD, and we just recently watched the Season 9 finale for the first time.

As we watched, I was struck by the strong religious overtones of the episode. Since I talked last time so much about how Superman and Jesus are similar, I'll start with those connections first:
  • Clark - like Jesus - recognizes it is his destiny to save the world, and he sees that the only way is to give up his life on Earth - "to make the ultimate sacrifice," as his friend Chloe puts it. 
  • Clark struggles to figure out if there is any other way, and I picture Jesus praying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want." (see Matthew 26:36-46).
  • As Clark is making up his mind, he is reassured by the knowledge that if he goes, there are others who will stay behind to carry on his work. Here, I picture Jesus, as he prayed for his disciples and gave them final instructions for carrying out the mission of bringing the Gospel to the world.
  • Clark is betrayed by Lois, just as Jesus was betrayed by his followers.
  • In the final scene, as Clark battles Zod, he realizes the only way to win is to sacrifice his own life. Clark is not merely stabbed with the Kryptonite dagger, but he intentionally pulls it into himself. I am reminded here that Jesus could have avoided the cross if he wanted, or he could have come down at any point, but he willingly chose to endure it because it was the only way to save us. Jesus was not killed by Roman soldiers, but he "gave up his spirit" (John 18:30).
  • As he dies, Clark stretches his arms out like Jesus on the cross (see below).
  • Finally, while Clark's dying moment is the end of Season 9, we know that - like Jesus on the third day - he will be resurrected at the beginning of Season 10.
Clark Kent dies to save the world
Clark Kent dies to save the world © 2010 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

What I love about this episode, though, is not just that Clark Kent shows similarities to Jesus - but the episode actually has a lot to teach about Biblical forgiveness and redemption.

Tess Mercer - who for so long had been a stand-in for Lex Luthor - admits at one point, "I have a higher calling. I was made to see the errors of my ways, and I'm here to redeem myself." She is a seeker, looking for the right path, but as she tries to find redemption, she is attacked by General Zod, and nearly loses her life. So, for us, when we are on the right path with the Lord, we must be prepared, because Satan will attack us (see 1 Peter 5:6-11). He will do anything to destroy our hope and tear us down.

In the episode, Tess never fully grasps the fact that we cannot save ourselves, but she does eventually submit to Clark as her last hope, and I am reminded of Ephesians 2:8-9:

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; 
it is the gift of God - not the result of works, so that no one may boast."

Another lesson comes when Clark confronts General Zod in the Fortress of Solitude. Throughout the series, Clark always refuses to give up on anyone, and so he says to Zod:
"What I've learned is that no matter how much someone has hurt you, or betrayed you, or how much it seems that someone is evil, at their core, everyone is worth saving."
Sadly, Zod refuses to change. His initial response to Clark is, "What exactly do you think you're saving me from?" and I imagine this mirrors the sentiments of skeptics who either a) refuse to believe there are consequences for their actions or b) refuse to admit they've done anything wrong in the first place. But deep down, I think everyone knows they've done wrong at some point. None of us is selfless, loving, honest, and fair all the time. All of us mess up. We all have sinned and fallen short (Romans 3:23), if we can only admit it.

Even General Zod knew he had done wrong, and later in the conversation, he asks another question - "Do you really think there's redemption for what I did?" - to which Clark responds, "It's never too late... You have to learn to forgive yourself." A lot of people walk around with feelings of guilt for their sins, and they assume that since they can't forgive themselves, God won't forgive them, either. They imagine God as eternally angry, but this is not so. Yes, God will punish sin, but he is also loving, and will remove sin and punishment from us if we put our trust in Christ.

"The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, 
but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance."
- 2 Peter 3:9

Even when Lois (like Judas Iscariot or Peter) mistrusts Clark and betrays him, all is not lost. In the passion story of Christ, I see Judas and Peter as two sides of the same coin. Both deny the Lord and later feel remorse. Judas hangs himself because he can't stand the guilt, but Peter lives with the it until he discovers that despite what he did, he can still be forgiven. If Judas had lived, I have no doubt he would have been restored just as Peter was. In our episode, Lois betrays Clark, but when she realizes she was wrong and Zod attacks her, Clark is there to save her from harm. And so, for us, as Clark said, "It's never too late." When we recognize our sin and turn to the Lord, no matter what we've done, he will never turn us away. The only time it becomes "too late" is when our life is over, but the problem is that none of us knows how long we have.

Jesus died for us as a sign of God's love, while we were still sinners, so that he could take the punishment for our sins away and restore us to a right relationship with God (Romans 5:8; 1 Peter 3:18). He did what none of us could do on our own because he was perfect - Jesus is our Superman!

If you've never done it before, now is the time - while you still have time! - to recognize your sin, submit to Jesus, and ask him to forgive you and save you. Start afresh by allowing God to remove your sin and restore you to a right relationship with him today!

1 comment :

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