Extracts from a gospel message I brought at Coventry Jesus Centre recently.
We all have heroes. Some are our heroes for deep and profound reasons; others less so (my wife for instance has a great liking for Daniel Craig which I suspect has something to do with turquoise eyes and chiselled features).
Then there are those characters in stories (page and screen) that appeal to our hunger for heroes. Nobility, self-sacrifice, strength.
What do the following four heroes have in common? Aslan from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; Neo from The Matrix; Anakin Skywalker from Star Wars; Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings?
Answer: they all have aspects of their heroism that – in some cases deliberately – echo that of Jesus. Aslan, the kingly lion, whom CS Lewis created as an explicitly Messianic figure, was killed and rose again; Neo was ‘The One’ who was prophesied; similarly, Anakin Skywalker’s coming was prophesied; and Gandalf, created by CS Lewis’s great friend JRR Tolkien, while not allegorical like Aslan, reflected Christ in his own death, defending his friends from the dreadful, demonic ‘Balrog’, later returning as from death ‘at the turning of the tide’.
Watch a rather well-spliced together selection of Gandalf clips from the Lord of the Rings films here:
I love this moment in the film. “You shall not pass!” bellows Gandalf, smiting the bridge with his staff. He defends the Fellowship from the Balrog, but at the cost of his own life.
It reminded me of a scene from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, which I recently finished reading. The Italian soldiers, including Corelli and his men, are being rounded up and massacred by the Nazis. As they face the firing squad, Corelli is grabbed by Carlo, a giant among his men who is devoted to him. Gripping Corelli, Carlo takes all the bullets for him, counting to 30 before dropping back onto his beloved Captain. Against all odds, Corelli survives.
And it reminds me of Jesus.
All the powers of evil – violent evil, political evil, religious evil, spiritual evil, the evil of betrayal, the evil of desolation, every kind of evil – drew themselves to their full height and flung themselves at Jesus on the cross. And He opened His arms wide and declared, in effect, ‘You shall not pass’.
He took our bullets.
He stopped evil in its tracks, refusing to keep it in circulation by the everlasting pattern of revenge, ‘an eye for an eye (and take an ear while you’re at it)’. ‘Father forgive’ He prayed – and evil lost its power, exhausted itself, spent itself utterly.
Now Jesus comes to us ‘at the turning of the tide’ and He says to us: come and join Me beyond the reach of evil and death. Come and join My way of forgiveness and new life.
A new creation is dawning and Jesus invites you to come and play your part with Him.