Salvation and redemption in pop culture
Have you noticed how Bible themes keep popping up in movies, books and TV?
Recently I went and saw Man of Steel and was amazed at the amount of subtle (and not-so-subtle) hints that Superman was the saviour figure for the world. Here's a few things I noticed:
- Clark Kent, aka Superman, more than once held his arms out in a cross-like shape.
- He sits in a chapel with the picture of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane in the background.
- He is considered the only one who is powerful enough to defeat the leader of darkness and evil.
The ideas of redemption, hope and sacrifice are often woven into the very fabric of so many of the traditional and modern imaginative tales that we love. We really don’t have to look far, just take the following few examples.
- Aslan, the lion in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe bargains with the White Witch and trades his innocent life for that of the guilty Edmund and takes the punishment.
- In Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf gives up his life for his friends, and for the continuation of the quest.
- Dumbledore makes the ultimate sacrifice for Harry Potter and the continued battle against Voldermort.
- A sacrifice to save another also happens in The Lion King when Mufasa’s love for his son leads him to rescue Simba from the stampede, but in the process he is trampled and then is too weak to fight off Scar and consequently dies.
A lot of these characters show conviction for a cause, or love for a person in their sacrifice. But this concept isn’t new. And there is one person who has shown more conviction and more love than any of these characters ever have. For those of us who know the events of the Bible, it is pretty obvious that this person in Jesus.
All the stories point to Jesus
Jesus the Son of God, who dwelt in the heavenly realms with God the Father, the Holy Spirit and the angels showed absolute conviction for the salvation of sinners. Jesus gave up His place of privilege and humbled himself, becoming a man (Philippians 2:6-7). And it is this Jesus, both fully God and fully man who loved the people God has chosen by sacrificing himself for them by dying on a cross (Philippians 2:8).
In doing this, Jesus trades his innocent life (like Aslan) for the guilty lives of us sinners and consequently washes us clean of our sin. It is because of His love for us, (like Mufasa’s love for his son) that Jesus came to save.
Now Aslan’s death in the place of Edmund, Gandalf’s sacrifice for the quest, Mufasa’s love for Simba and even Dumbledore’s relinquishing of his life are all great displays of love and conviction for a cause. Sometimes they make us cry and other times we are amazed by the sacrifice. But these characters' actions don’t result in us falling before them and praising them for what they have done. But if we are Christians our reaction to Jesus’ sacrifice is to bow before Him with praise echoing from our lips and the declaration that He is Lord! (Philippians 2:9-11)
So next time you watch your favourite fairy tale or the next cinema epic, have a look and see if you can spot the salvation ideas carried through the story. It is not surprising that so many of our imaginative worlds have these ideas woven into them. I think deep down we realise that our world is not how it should be and we desire redemption, salvation and hope. And when you’re watching and you see these ideas, remember the real story of Jesus, the only one who has achieved ultimate redemption for those who love Him.