Friday, February 11, 2005

The Superhero and the Wimp

The Superhero and the Wimp

As a child I loved to watch cartoons. I had many favorites, but the superheroes had a special place in my heart. There was just something about them. As superheroes, they were always on time, knew how to take care of the situation, and they always beat the bad guy. I liked that the superhero always got the bad guy, and that I got to see it happen-- the bad guy get what he deserved. As I grew older, I watched fewer and fewer cartoons. Instead, I became attracted to TV and movie action heroes, and looked forward to watching them as often as I could. One thing that differed between the simple cartoon plots that I watched earlier and the TV plots, is that latter's storyline was more complex. Now there was no longer just the villain, and the hero-- no, now there was also the wimp. The wimp is the character who is always getting in trouble, talks too much, gives out too much information, and normally ends up dead. In the more complex plot, the hero was contrasted not only with the villain, but also with the wimp. While the wimp is, well --- wimpy, the action hero is quiet and detached, a man of action with a cool head, not given to purposeless expression of emotion. He is also observant. Long before the conflict or crisis arises, he has
assessed the situation, come up with a plan of action, and therefore is prepared to respond with minimal casualties.

This contrast of the superhero, the wimp and the villain, is partly similar to that of Jesus, the disciples, Pharisees, chief priests and satan. Jesus can be viewed as the superhero, because just like the heroes, although He is human, He has abilities and powers that are super in strength. The disciples can be categorized as wimpy (with Peter as the particular wimp of the story) because they allow their emotions to dictate their behavior, they are ill-prepared for conflict, and generally lack courage and fortitude. Judas- the betrayer, the Pharisees and chief priests as co-conspirators and satan-- the accuser, are the villains. Let's look at John chapter 18, for the setting--

John 18:2 And Judas also, which betrayed Him, knew the place: for Jesus
ofttimes resorted thither with His disciples.
John 18:3 Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the
chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and
John 18:4 Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon Him,
went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye?
John 18:5 They answered Him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I
am He. And Judas also, which betrayed Him, stood with them.
John 18:6 As soon then as He had said unto them, I am He, they went
backward, and fell to the ground.
John 18:7 Then asked He them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of
John 18:8 Jesus answered, I have told you that I am He: if therefore ye
seek Me, let these go their way:
John 18:9 That the saying might be fulfilled, which He spake, Of them
which thou gavest Me have I lost none.
John 18:10 Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high
priest's servant, and cut off His right ear. The servant's name was
John 18:11 Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath:
the cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?
John 18:12 Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took
Jesus, and bound Him.

Upon seeing the mob lying prostrate on the ground, the disciples mistakenly thought that Jesus would deliver Himself as He had done in the past, and thus end the controversy. Miraculous deliverance is the action they associated with a hero, a saviour --not surrender. Sister White says of the occasion,

When the disciples saw that Jesus did not deliver Himself from His enemies, but permitted Himself to be taken and bound, they were offended that He should suffer this humiliation to Himself and them. They had just witnessed an exhibition of His power in prostrating to the ground those who came to take Him, and in healing the servant's ear which Peter had cut off, and they knew that if He chose He could deliver Himself from that murderous throng. They blamed Him for not doing so, and, mortified and terror-stricken by His unaccountable conduct, they forsook Him and fled. Alone, in the hands of the hooting mob, the Saviour was hurried from the garden (E.G. White Notes, p. 48).

Jesus had predicted that the disciples would be offended because of the inexplicability of His actions which were unlike those of a superhero. According to Matthew 26:31,

“Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of Me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.” As Christ was smitten and taken, the sheep-- His disciples and other followers-- were scattered.

So, Christ, the superhero allowed Himself to be bound and taken captive. The disciples, not having prayed with Him in the garden, and up until now covetously arguing about who would be the greatest in His Kingdom, were unprepared for the conflict, and like fearful wimps fled. As we read this, let us be careful upon this point fellow believers, isn't that just how we'd behave too if we weren't filled with the Spirit-- receiving His Words? Don't we behave similarly today when something the Lord wants us to do goes against our long held expectations and wishes? Don't we flee His presence, and that of the thing we fear or dread?

Against the backdrop of the collective wimps (i.e. the disciples) who forsook Christ
and fled, we see Christ staying yielding Himself, and being taken by the villains. What a contrast to the behavior of the disciples. Of course the villains are gleeful, for they have accomplished what they wanted-- the capture of Christ-- the superhero who does what they can't; He heals the sick, brings the dead to life, gives sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and multiplies the lunch. Yes, they are certain their diabolical plans will now be successful.

Contrasted with the behavior of the superhero, the villains and the collective wimps, is that of a particular wimp-- Peter. According to the scripture, Peter was asked who he was in relation to Jesus, three times. Each of these times, he vehemently denied
having anything to do with Jesus. On the contrary, Jesus was questioned at least three times as to who He was, and to the scope of His mission. Without hesitation,
knowing that His response would cause His death on the cross, Christ answered, "You say that I Am." Jesus answered with the Truth. Similar to the action hero, Jesus remained calm, cool and level headed, no purposeless emotion portrayed. Self-sufficient Peter, on the other hand, was confused, bewildered and most of all afraid. His emotions did find expression, in the denial of Christ.

So, what made the difference between Jesus as a type of superhero, and the wimpy character of Peter? Was it that Christ was superhuman? Many of us are tempted to think so. However, the Word tells a different story. Christ had no power that we may not avail ourselves of. He took on Human nature after 4000 years of degradation, sin and depravity, and hid His divine nature within it. He had no will of His own, for He said His will was to do the will of His Father, and to finish the work. The subjection of His will was displayed not only throughout His life, but all the way up through the garden of Gethsemane, Calvary and onto Golgotha. So it was not that He was superhuman, it was that He was tapped into the Source of Power.

In contrast, Peter believed that not only would he never leave his Lord, but that he would die for Him if necessary. What made Peter wimpy, was that he disbelieved the assessment of himself, made by his Father through Christ. Feeling self-confident, over time, he had been moving away from dependence on God, to dependence on self. Isn't that just how the principle of self works? It blinds us to the true picture of ourselves, and thus to the need for a remedy. Peter, like the rest of the disciples, thought that Christ's kingdom was temporal and it was their goal to secure a place of importance and prominence in it. The power of self-love did not allow Peter (or the disciples) to see self as the Father saw it--wimpy, and in need of mighty strength. Thus separated from the Source of Power, Peter was unable to withstand temptation and fell. How about us? Are we connected to the Source of Power? Are we moving through the Power of the Spirit from the shadows of dark self-dependency into the bright light of the revelation of Christ's self-surrendering love and power? Through Prayerful study of the Word, and yielding of self-will, Christ was connected to the Source of Power. This enabled Him to be what we call superhuman. We have a choice, we too can be connected to the Power of the Holy Spirit, and through yielding
become superheroes of the gospel-- or, we can choose to be wimpy. I don't want to be a villain, or a wimp, how about you?

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