(Isaiah 53:3, NRSV)
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” (John 18:36, NASB)
Man Of Steel, the new Superman movie, opened in theaters across the county this weekend. It is once again a “series reset,” telling the story of Kal-El from Krypton who is sent to earth Moses-like in a cosmic basket. He is found by John and Martha Kent and raised as their son, though he is obviously “special.” When Kal-El, now known as Clark Kent, reaches the age of 33, he begins using his special powers to help others, render justice, and set wrongs right. Sound like an enjoyable flick to watch? Sure.
And yes, there are plenty of ways that Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman looks like Jesus. One would have to be blind to miss these. There are already critics saying the Messiah message is a bit overwhelming. I haven’t seen the movie, so I can’t comment on that aspect. But I did come across something this week related to the movie that makes me upset. It seems Warner Bros. studio is pushing the Jesus connection heavily to pastors and churches, encouraging preachers to take to their pulpits today and share the message of SuperJesus, the “Original Superhero.” They even commissioned a seminary-trained professor from Pepperdine to write a sermon that connects the dots between Superman and Jesus.
I am not going to take time here to point out how moneychanger-like any church who uses this prepared sermon would become. What bothers me the most is the idea that Jesus is a superhero, here to save the day, right wrongs, and make our lives in this world so much better. The very idea of making Jesus into a superhero with superhero powers is sacrilegious. Jesus is God, the Creator, the Sustainer. He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He is the Supreme Word. He is very God of very God. When he took on the form of a man, he became completely human.
Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. (Philippians 2:7, The Message)
Yes, Jesus performed miracles, such as opening blind eyes and causing the lame to walk and even raising the dead. But he said that we would do greater works than he did if we but believe on him. He was not a superhero granted superhero powers to make all things right. Things were most assuredly not right when Jesus walked this earth, and have not been right since his death and resurrection. At least, not “right” in our view. We read clearly in our New Testament passage this morning that his kingdom is not to be found in this world, and thus our looking for a superhero to set this world “right” is misplaced.
Robert Capon reminds us that Jesus only saves the lost.
He saves losers and only losers. He raises the dead and only the dead. And he rejoices more over the last, the least, and the little than over all the winners in the world. That alone is what this losing race of ours needs to hear, even though it can’t stand the thought of it.
We don’t like to talk about that, because it reminds us that we are losers, and that we are dead. That there is nothing good in ourselves. But that is the truth.
Perhaps some want a superhero savior to put their foes in their places. Others may want a Superman Jesus to give them material goods and status and power. Others still just want to avoid suffering of any kind. I’m sorry, but Jesus is not a superhero. He is not Superman. He is Christ the King. He is the Good Shepherd. He is the Suffering Servant. And if you will not take him as he is, he does not give us the option to shape him as we want him to be.
So enjoy the movie. Yet when you come out of the theater, remember who your Savior is, and who he isn’t.