Superhero Parallels

Our culture proclaims, “You only save yourself,” but box-office statistics and God-spoken Scripture tell us otherwise. Despite our best efforts, we need a Savior.

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Last night, the long-anticipated release of Captain Marvel hit theatres across America. And true to comic book history, Carol Danvers came with strength, flight, energy manipulation, and a weirdly fascinating mohawk.

Played by Oscar-winner Brie Larson, Captain Marvel is similar to other characters we’ve seen over the past decade. She’s strong, humorous, and looks too good in a multi-colored suit. But in comparison to other Avengers we’ve met so far, she’s more introverted. While still fiercely courageous in combat, there’s something more subtle about this powerhouse.

Still, in the train ride leading up to Avengers: End Game, the film slightly disappoints in measuring up as an effective precursor. We get a backstory, a costume explanation, and even a correspondence with other Avengers. But in comparison to the big plot-twists fans have come to expect, Captain Marvel satisfies the hunger while still tasting a little flat.

However, even though we won’t know the numbers until Monday, Captain Marvel is likely to skyrocket in the box-office; we’ve loved watching someone come save the day ever since Christopher Reeve took tights in the 70s. And studying the three highest-grossing films of 2018 is only confirmation. Black Panther, Avengers Infinity War, and Incredibles 2 smashed records to deliver audiences what we want. What we’ve always wanted.

A Superhero.

 

Waiting for Superman

Our culture proclaims, “You only save yourself,” but box-office statistics and God-spoken Scripture tell us otherwise. Despite our best efforts, we need a Savior.

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:5, NIV).

We couldn’t save ourselves. Even though we attempted self-righteousness, we needed someone else. (Thank goodness we live on this side of the cross. I can’t imagine being Habakkuk, waiting to shout “It’s a bird, it’s a plane… No, it’s Jesus Christ!”)

This inability to save ourselves is the reason I love any kind of police and superhero conflict, as seen obviously in films like The Amazing Spiderman. The police want to take care of the problem themselves and not need supernatural assistance. But it isn’t until all seems lost that they ask for the help of a savior.

Consider, too, the narrative of Superman, the world’s potentially most-renowned comic book hero. He’s an alien from a foreign world who comes to Earth as a baby and is raised by humans. He matures in strength and intelligence—all the while understanding the human experience. He sacrifices a normal life for the sake of humanity, even though Earth never did anything deserve him.

This is the good news. The Good News. We could not save ourselves. God knew we needed a Superhero even though we didn’t see it. He knew that we needed a Superhero and that we wanted to be one, too.

 

Being a Superhero

In one of the best superhero films to date, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, we catch a reflection of this two-fold:

Batman has just saved the city of Gotham by sacrificing his life for the sake of the people. And after escaping death despite all odds, he knows it’s time to leave Gotham behind. But before he departs, he makes sure to pass on his torch and superhero resources to a new pal named Robin.

(Pumps a fist up in the air). Isn’t that good? Isn’t that satisfying? It’s such a parallel to the gospel, my friends. It touches my heart because Jesus did the same thing in Acts 1.

After giving His life and all that He had for His people, it’s time for Jesus to go back to the Father. But, He doesn’t leave the world abandoned. He passes on His torch and His resources to the disciples.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:7, NIV).

We’ve already been saved through Jesus Christ. But we were never meant for just the ordinary. Just look at any child come Halloween. There’s a proclivity to choosing a suit, tying a cape, and running around the living room.

Of course, there is a maturing process needed for this. We grow in wisdom and stature, just as Jesus did. Just look at any good “becoming-a-superhero” montage. A hero has just recognized their extraordinariness and is learning to properly use their strengths. And like a child learning to use utensils or a teenager learning to drive, there’s an endearing, comedic quality to this maturation.

Like Spiderman learning to develop his spidey-senses, we are constantly developing the fruits and gifts of the Spirit. We get stronger and more capable—even though the power is already there. We just gotta strengthen the muscles and step into the identity the Lord has already spoken over us.

 

United as One

The most incredible part of this superhero anointing is the fact that we don’t have to do it alone. Consider Hulk with his strength. Black Panther with his resources. Thor with his supernatural agility. Each has something special to bring to humanity. But together as the united Avengers,  no intergalactic alien stands a chance.

(Am I sounding geeky yet? I promise I turned in my headgear at the end of 7th grade).

I have this theory that we love the Avengers and Justice League because we were intrinsically programmed for interdependence. We were made to bring our strengths to the table and rely on one another to fulfill the Body. Just like Captain Marvel, we were meant to join forces, defeat the bad guys, and help bring restoration to humanity. (And maybe even glow like she does in the film).

Captain Marvel may surge this weekend with quite a few ticket sales. But Hollywood is only recycling a narrative found long ago in the Bible. The original Superhero came 2000+ years ago and never even needed a cape. All He wore was a cross.

 

For more information on Captain Marvel or to purchase tickets to theatres near you, visit Fandango.com

 

 

Featured Image by Elijah O’Donnell

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About the Author

Rachael's testimony can be summed up in four little words: from ash to glitter. She's witnessed Jesus bring color and extravagance to transform her mourning into dancing. So when strangers smile in passing to say, "You're so extra!" she knows that she gets it from her Father.