Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster created something phenomenal in the 1930s that took America and the world by storm. What was it you ask? Was it a bird, a plane? Less likely. It was SUPERMAN! Superman, the comic book superhero bearing the red “S” on his chest wearing a blue costume with a red cape. Yeah, you remember him. In fact, he has become so popular today that practically anyone knows what Superman is as a result of the comics, movies, toys, t-shirts, Halloween costumes, and of course the tv series known as Smallville. I will admit, I am even a fan of Superman. I have fond memories of a Superman birthday cake when I was a kid, wearing a costume, watching the movies, and even enjoying the occasional episode of Smallville which chronicles the life of Superman before he actually becomes Superman.
So, what’s the big deal with Superman and how does this have anything to do with a blog on faith and culture? How does this have anything to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
It all begins with who Superman is and what he does. Superman is an alien to this world, though he appears to be a man. He has two identities. He is Clark Kent and Superman (his Kryptonian name is Kal-El). He has one life where he is like an average joe newspaper reporter, Clark Kent. He has another life where he does miraculous things and saves the world, Superman. He constantly is retreating to an isolated place, the Fortress of Solitude, in order to discern his father’s will and communicate with his father. He is unaffected by any of the dangers in this world apart from Kryptonite which is of another world. He has a great sense of duty and purpose, and nothing will get in the way of his desire to protect and save the world from the worst of enemies. When something is wrong with the city of Metropolis he is called upon to save the day. The people of Metropolis trust in him and hope in him. They believe that Superman will save the day and depend on him to do so. Superman is faithful to the people of Metropolis and his heart goes out to the people of earth and Metropolis.
Are you getting the picture yet?
A movie was released not long ago in 2006 called Superman Returns starring Kevin Spacey as the arch nemesis of Superman Lex Luther, Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane, and Brandon Routh as Superman. The movie was about how Superman apparently left and was gone for some time. He is in love with Lois Lane, of course, and returns to continue saving the day and visits Lois Lane by saving a plane which she is on and is on the verge of crashing into the ground. Superman flies up to the plane and slows the plane down, and sets the plane down on a baseball park. Then, he rips open the door to the plane and asks if everyone is okay and encourages them to pursue flying because statistical it is the safest way to travel, lol. Then, he sees Lois Lane and he hasn’t seen her in a very long time. Lois is shocked to see him and happy to see him at the same time. Superman, is also shocked to see her and is happy to see her as well. Eventually, Clark is back from an extended leave at The Daily Planet in Metropolis doing his regular job on the side and doing his Superman duties as well. Then, Lex Luther has a plan to take over the world with an evil plot to create a new continent via some Kryptonian crystals comprised entirely of the one weakness of Superman, Kryptonite. Lex begins to grow his new continent and Superman rushes to stop him.
When Superman arrives to this new continent in the ocean he discovers it is made of Kryptonite and is powerless against Luther. Lex stabs Superman and pierces his side, then Superman falls off the land mass into the ocean apparently dead/dying. Lois and her family arrive to help Superman, but find that he is dead in the ocean. They pull him out of the water and find a shard of Kryptonite in his back side. They pull it out and shortly after Clark regains consciousness and jumps out of the plane to stop Luther. Clark goes down below where the land mass is growing below the ocean floor and picks up the entire mass of this new continent that has begun to grow rapidly and throws it into space. Then, he falls to the earth having used all of his strength apparently dead again. Then, the movie is nearly over and we find that he is still alive and has risen from the dead after nearly dying to save the world from the enemy, Lex Luther.
What is significant about this movie is that it parallels the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Jesus was sent to earth in order to save mankind from evil, from the Evil One. In the incarnation, God took on flesh in the person of Jesus Christ while being fully God and fully man, God dwelt with us here on earth. The name Immanuel means “God with us” and is proclaimed in the New Testament upon Jesus entrance into the world by the Spirit’s conception through Mary. God was fully man and knew what it was like from experience to have hunger, to thirst, to struggle with the problems of the world, and to even be tempted. He was a real man who was crucified and executed on a cross for the sins of the world. He lived a perfectly obedient, perfectly moral life which nobody has ever done before or since. Yet, at the same time he was also fully God. Though he was a man, he had the ability to perform miracles and he used his miracles to heal others, expel demons, reveal his identity to the world, open the eyes of the blind, give hearing to the deaf, raise people from the dead, and even conquer death through the resurrection. This man was supernatural, a true superhero. He lived a modest life of a Jewish Mediterranean peasant while at the same time being God.
The story of Superman, you see, is a great story. However, at the end of the day it is merely a great story which isn’t true. It is fictional and there isn’t really a Superman. The title Superman is from Nietzsche and the concept of Superman actually came from Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, who I named above, and they were influenced heavily and admittedly by the person of Moses from the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible. Moses was called by God to lead his people out of bondage to the Egyptians and into the promised land. Moses was called to be the voice of God to Egypt and to God’s people. Kal-El is believed to have come from the Hebrew meaning “voice of God.” Moses was one who established the justice of God and through whom God did i wonders which defeated the evil oppression of the Egyptians and put to death the false gods of Egypt. Superman is a superhero who is pro justice and seeks the greater good for all mankind. Jesus is far greater than either of these.
Jesus is the greatest good for all mankind and he is the deliverance offered by God to humanity from sin. As we are in bondage to sin, it is Christ who frees us from our captivity to sin, our slavery. The Spirit turns our heart away from our idolatrous ways and sets our eyes on the prize of our faith which is our righteous inheritance as sons and daughters of the living God, Jesus Christ and his great promises. Our joy and hope as Christians are not in a fictional superhero, but in the only true superhero who has ever lived – Jesus Christ the Son of God. Moses was the mediator of the old covenant, the Law of God, to his people. Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant, salvation for all people by God, and he is the covenant. The covenant was cast in his own blood which was spilt on a wooden cross nearly 2000 years ago.
We have the opportunity to know the God of all creation through his Son Jesus Christ who is our intercessor to God the Father. In the same way that he is our intercessor, we are called to intercede for one another through prayer, and through the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Superman the world and took upon himself the burden of saving the world and offerng himself as a sacrifice on behalf of the world in order to rid the world of evil. This is a great story indeed, but it is not a true story. I’ll tell you a true story. A true story is the God of all creation predestining his Son before the foundations of the world (John 1) to be sent into the world on mission in order to serve the broken, the bruised, the downtrodden. Then, to live a righteous, and perfectly moral life performing all sorts of miracles which were all used to serve others and then his earthly life climaxed with his execution upon a cross. He died for the sins of the world, taking them upon himself, then after being buried he rose from the dead conquering death.
The joy of the resurrection is not only that the love of God shocked the world with the sacrifice of his Son and that same Son rose from the dead claiming victory over death and evil. That’s not where the story ends. This is good news because his victory is our victory which we claim by grace through faith in Jesus. It also good news for all of creation because God promises to make all things new with the ‘new heavens and new earth’ in which righteousness dwells and we bring this good news to the world by loving God and others, serving the needs of those in our communities and redeeming them. It’s not social justice and it’s not just sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ verbally, but it’s living Christ-centered lives doing justice while proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a great joy to know that God loves you enough to send forth his Son to free us from bondage to sin, and to make us alive in Christ by his Holy Spirit. Is it not?!?
Though, we can not leap tall buildings in a single bound, we can not run faster than a speeding bullet, or turn back time by doing laps around the earth, we have victory over death in Christ and can truly come back from the dead because our God really has the power to do so. So, in Christ we are not all Superman or Wonder Woman, but in Christ who is the only true Superman who ever lived and who ever will live, we have supernatural ability by his indwelling Spirit giving us faith, making us like Christ, and giving us eternal life. Superman is a great story which I have already mentioned, but the true story of the real super-man is in Jesus Christ in which we have a claim to the promises of God in him by faith and are a part of that story.
And that is a great comfort and an everlasting joy.
It has been some time since I have written on this blog, so for that I apologize. I have been transitioning into the role of pastor of a small church in Maine, and moving with all the other things that accompany a new ministry and the busyness of pastoral ministry has certainly taken away from time I would have been spending contributing to this blog. For that, I do not apologize for I love doing pastoral ministry and it is a great blessing to me, and a joy.