The Christmas of 2014, I attended a children’s Christmas production at a local church. It was a story of all the superheros of the world gathering at the manger. Ultimately the message was that Jesus was the biggest and best superhero in the world.
Not long before that children’s Christmas play there was a Superman movie that came out, and Christians applauded it, saying that Superman was like Jesus. Articles such as one entitled, “’Man of Steel’ filled with Jesus, Christianity references” in a June 2013 article http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2013/06/14/man-steel-filled-with-jesus-christianity-references.html#, exemplify this belief. The movie was even incorporated into sermons around the country, as pastors preached that the story of Jesus is like the story of superman http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/06/14/superman-coming-to-a-church-near-you/, http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/sermons-about-man-of-steel.asp. According to the Daily Mail, “Marketers for the newest Hollywood Superman movie, ‘Man of Steel,’ are heavily targeting Christians by offering church leaders free screenings of the film as well as sermon notes emphasizing its religious themes. The notes, titled ‘Jesus: The Original Superhero,’ run nine pages long and suggest that pastors show the ‘Man of Steel’ trailer during their Sunday morning sermon, CNN reported Friday,” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2343165/Man-Steel-marketers-target-Christians-sending-pastors-prepared-sermons-compare-Superman-Jesus-Christ.html.
Now, yet another superman movie entered the theaters in 2016, and again people try to parallel Jesus with Superman, called Batman vs Superman, http://www1.cbn.com/movies/superman-and-jesus-supermans-origin-and-parallels-jesus.
But, is Jesus really like Superman?
It seems that everyone wants a superhero or to be a superhero these days. Everyone hates it when Ironman cannot get his fancy iron suit on in order to save Pepper. Everyone hates it when Superman is rendered powerless by kryptonite. Everyone cheers when all the superheros work together to save the earth, like in the 2012 Avengers movie, and everyone loves it when Neo in the Matrix gets up and overcomes Agent Smith, stopping the bullets in midair.
The concept of superheros is not new, however. In the time of Jesus, the Jews were awaiting their messiah. They longed for him to come in power and might, establish his kingdom on earth, overthrow their Roman persecutors, reestablished the glory of Jerusalem, and rule the world in justice and righteousness. They longed for a physical deliverer. They desired a king, a leader, another man-of-war like David who would defeat their enemies once and for all! They were looking for this messiah – a type of superhero – and no other.
So….when Jesus came as a suffering servant, a bloody lamb of Passover, a spiritual Savior with hope of eternal salvation, and cloaking His true identity and glory from them, they rejected Him as abhorrent and unacceptable. This was not the messiah for which they had been waiting and desperately felt they needed.
Throughout the 2,000 plus years that followed Jesus’ crucifixion, Christians have been persecuted and mercilessly martyred. Indeed, Jesus stated that all who follow Him will be persecuted and killed even as He was. HE GUARANTEED IT!
Now, what kind of a superhero is that?
Jesus is our soon coming King. But, for now He is our Passover Lamb. Yes, He will return someday and wipe out the enemy with the sword of His mouth (Revelation 1:16; 19:15), and His clothing will be drenched with the blood of all who oppose Him (Revelation 19:13). But, for now He calls us to endure persecution. Yes, He will one day rule the world with a rod of iron and believers will rule and reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:12, Revelation 19:15). But, for now we are called to be servants, the least of these, even like the prophets and those who hid in caves of which this world was not and is not worthy (Hebrews 11). He is first the Lamb, and then the Lion.
This truly was “foolishness” to the Jews who looked intensely for a political and physical savior. And it is still “foolishness” to Jews and to American superhero Christians. For, however attractive the concept of superheros in this day and age may be, and however nice it may be to think that Jesus is like Superman, is far from accurate. Really, to say that Jesus is like Superman is extremely misleading, for He does not always swoop down and save us from our pain, our persecution, our troubles, our problems, nor death. As much as we want Him to be our physical deliverer, more often than not we have to endure the hardship and suffering even as He did. As much as we strongly desire Jesus to be our superman, our ironman, our hero, He plain and simply is not.
No. Jesus is not a superhero. He is more than a superhero. For he was not merely part human. He was fully human. He was not only part divine. He was fully divine. His birth did not come about through the sexual union of a spirit father and spirit mother nor via an alien father and mother from another planet (unlike the Superman story, and Mormon story for that matter). Rather, His birth was completely supernatural. He was born of a virgin’s seed, but not sexually; rather, it was supernatural via the Holy Spirit coming upon her and the overshadowing of the Highest (Luke 1:35, Matthew 1:18). He laid down His life (John 10:15) and took it back up again, resurrecting Himself (John 2:19-22—verified in Matthew 26:61, Mark:14:58), defeating death, hell and the grave (Revelation 1:18), and has thus made us more than conquerors (Romans 8:37).
Incredibly, Jesus is God Almighty Himself, existing from eternity (Hebrews 13:8, John 8:58, Revelation 1:8, Colossians 1:17). Jesus is the great “I Am” (John 8:58, John 18:6). He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End (Revelation 1:8). Jesus is Creator God, and God Incarnate (Come in the Flesh—1 John 4:2, Philippians 2:5-8) in whom the fullness of the Deity dwelt bodily (Colossians 2:9), the one and only begotten by God the Father (Psalm 2:7, John 1:14; 3:16, 1 John 4:9; 5:1) and upon whom the Spirit of God descended (Matthew 3:16, Luke 3:22, John 1:32). And He has a greater plan than Hollywood and superhero comic strips could ever envision, and cannot be accurately compared to any version of a past or present superhero. His ways are not our ways nor are His thoughts our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9), for His ways are “foolishness” to the world and its system of superheros (1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 3:18-20). His death is a stench to all who do not believe, and the smell of His death on Christians is foul in their nostrils (2 Corinthians 2:15-16). Jesus’ suffering is repulsive to them then and now, and His call to Christians to die to self and desire (Matthew 10:39, Luke 17:33, John 12:25), to pick up our cross and follow Him in spite of the shame (Matthew 10:38, Luke 14:27), to suffer with Him through pain and injustice (Philippians 3:10, Hebrews 2:10, 1 Peter 4:13), to be persecuted for morality (James 1:12, 1 Peter 3:13-22), to endure hardship for His name’s sake (Matthew 5:10-12, Romans 8:36, 1 Peter 4:14) is disgusting to the superhero philosophy of this world. But, this is the real Jesus Christ.
It is a weighty thing to be a Christian. Most Christians throughout the world are being persecuted on some level, but American Christians cannot fathom this concept. We have grown accustomed to a sugar-coated Gospel and an ecumenical, superhero god who wants everyone to be happy, dismisses sin, could not possibly send a non-Christian “good” person to hell, wants everyone to be rich, and who most definitely will rescue us from all our problems. But, that is not the God of the Bible. That is not what Jesus taught. His teaching of sacrifice, self-denial, pain, persecution, suffering and carrying a shameful cross are offensive to the sensibilities of American/Western Christians who just want to embrace life.
I want to embrace life too. I don’t like the concept of suffering, and most of all, I don’t like the bitter truth of persecution that is dawning in the United States of America. It is beyond hard to swallow. I’ve been a Christian my whole life, following Jesus before I could even write His name. I have studied other religions, have written research papers, speeches, learned Biblical languages, and taught classes at churches and in homes. I have gone through stark wildernesses of intense waiting, painful deserted deserts of despair, and depressing valleys. Yet, in all of it, the Word of God rooted itself more deeply in my heart.
But, in all these years the enormity of this concept of “sharing in Christ’s sufferings” did not really phase me….until now. It hit me like a ton of bricks, and made me wonder if the God of Elijah still exists. Yet, I have come to a simple conclusion that both Peter and Joshua came to so many years ago. Their words of timeless truth still resound, resonating past barriers of history and space. In John 6:68-69 we read, “From that time many of his [Jesus’] disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” And then there are the famous words of Joshua the son of Nun in Joshua 24:14-15, “Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
And so it is now. Christian Americans have a choice that is looming in front of them. Will they choose to serve the feel good Gospel of comfort and plenty, the superhero gods who spare them all pain and persecution or will they choose the Lord?
Jesus is not like Superman, nor are we superheros. We are spiritually more than conquerors, and the gates of hell will not prevail against us, but we are guaranteed suffering and persecution in this world. For, this world is not our home. We are pilgrims and strangers here looking for a city whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:10, 13). Therefore, I encourage every Christian in the words of Hebrews 12:1-2, “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
This temporal heaven and earth will soon pass away (Matthew 24:35, Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33) and all of its pleasure and pursuits, all of its fun and comforts, and all will burn with a great consuming fire (Matthew 3:12, Luke 3:17). But there is an eternity beyond this life, an eternity that we cannot begin to fathom nor comprehend, an eternity that will be embraced only by those who are true followers of the real, non-superhero Jesus Christ. Knowing this and more, I have counted the cost and have decided that serving the Lord is the ONLY choice, for Jesus is the ONLY ONE with the words of eternal life!!!
Now, choose this day whom you will serve!