January 3, 2009
Superman represents pure physical power. If you could be any superhero, you might initially say that you would like to be some other character, but if you were really given the opportunity, you would choose Superman. No way you choose Spiderman over the man who is able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. No way you choose the Hulk over the guy who is more powerful than a locomotive. No way you choose Wolverine over the man of steel. “Ah,” you say, “but what about the invisible man? Superman can’t do that!” Are you kidding me? When you can look through walls, you don’t need to be invisible, and besides speeding bullets might as well be invisible. So there is no doubt. Superman is the super superhero. He is the superhero’s hero.
Every element of his physical makeup has immeasurable ability. Sure, he is in constant transition between nerdy glasses and tights, but that thought is only uncomfortable to you because you are not Superman. If you could do what he did, you would have all the self-confidence you need to manage his fashion cycle. Others could think whatever they wanted of Clark Kent, but you would know the satisfying truth. And the issue with the tights would tend to disappear every time you are rescuing people from imminent peril. Observers don’t think about his red boots. They say things like, “That man is a miracle.” So instead of calling him Superman, you might as well call him “The Man,” because he is.
Yoda represents pure mystical power. What if you had to choose between having Superman on your side or Yoda? For me, I’m going with Yoda. Though the metropolis marvel has unlimited physical abilities, Yoda has capabilities of a different sort that Superman cannot equal. Yoda’s power comes from his mystical connection with the power behind the whole universe and extends far beyond his immediate sphere. The breadth of the force reduces Superman to a mere dot. And even on an individual combat level, Yoda mystically finds the ability to do what ever he needs to do. You might say that Superman would punch Yoda from Dagobah to Krypton, but I’m not so sure. Yoda would feel the attack before it happened, and his reflexes just might land his light saber into some melting steel. Do you think it is a coincidence that Yoda’s sword glows the same color as Kryptonite? I don’t.
It is interesting that Yoda’s power, like Clark Kent’s, is also cloaked in a veil of weakness. Without prior knowledge of his character, you would never pick Yoda for a bodyguard. If the proverbial wisdom is, “White men can’t jump,” then a similar principle reasons, “Little green men can’t fight.” And not only is he tiny; he is ugly. Who would ever choose to look like him? Several years back, my friend played Yoda in a Star Wars sketch complete with green facial paint and duct-tape ears. Trust me; it wasn’t pretty. But do you think Yoda cares about his appearance? Of course not. For the same reasons that apply to Superman above, Yoda operates with a confidence that prevents his appearance from being of any concern to himself. His feeble fascade is actually the storyteller’s means for exagerrating the power of his resources. Now, it would be incorrect to call Yoda “The Man” because we really don’t know what species he is. However, Yoda is definitely a dude. So you might as well call him “The Dude,” because he is.
Jesus represents pure spiritual power. All four Gospel writers report the manifestation of the Holy Spirit at Jesus’ baptism. The significance is to emphasize that Jesus is divinely anointed and empowered. After the account of Jesus’ baptism in Luke, the author proclaims three times in the following chapter that the Holy Spirit was the key to Jesus’ ministry. Luke states that Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit” (vs. 1) and “in the power of the Spirit” (vs. 14). Then, Luke reports Jesus’ bold claim: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me” (vs. 18). In Acts, Luke’s sequel, we find Peter emphasizing this same truth at the first official presentation of the gospel to the Gentiles: “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power” (Acts 10:37). The apostle Paul also understood that Jesus’ power was a demonstration of his spiritual status. He explains in Romans that Jesus “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (1:4).
“Resurrection from the dead” leads to the next point of the discussion, that is, the capability of Jesus’ spiritual power. He has what the author of Hebrews calls “the power of an indestructible life” (7:16). In other words, the resurrection is everything. It means that Jesus is everything. Everything he claimed to be, everything he claimed to do, and everything he claims he will do is true, accurate, and unstoppable. His word is completely endowed with power. Jesus, by virtue of his identity as the Son of God has the ultimate of all power connections. He is in perfect spiritual relationship with the Father, and therefore his relationship to everything else is one of authority and strength: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Heb 1:3). He speaks and things appear. He speaks again and they are gone. His glory maintains the universe. Therefore, Superman and Yoda are completely dependent on the will of Jesus to exist, and just for the record, they don’t. Now you know why.
Jesus possesses pure spiritual power, and yet he presented himself in weakness. He came with “no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isa 53:2b-3). What a paradox! What a stumbling block for Jews! What foolishness to Gentiles! (1 Cor 1:23) Why would the sustainer of all things present himself in such weakness? Why would he willfully carry our sorrows?
The answer begins with the same explanation that applies to both Superman and Yoda. The Son knows his power regardless of anyone else’s impression. After all, physical appearance is pretty insignificant to the one who created physical appearance. But the answer reaches much farther than any imaginable for our two fictional heroes. Jesus decided to use his power to save men from the consequence of their sins: “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isa 53:5). The last time I checked wrath bearers aren’t pretty. The ugliness of the cross is deceptive to the uniformed, but “to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18b). It is the power that demonstrates ultimate love and ultimate glory (Rom 5:8).
If the ability of Clark Kent to appear weak and clumsy makes Superman more impressive, if the fragility of Yoda exaggerates the resources of the force, then how great is the work of Christ for demonstrating the power of the Holy Spirit! How glorious is the gospel of the incarnate Son hanging on a cross! He is the Sovereign who laid himself down for his people and then raised himself up again on their behalf. So you might as well call him “The King,” because he is.