Pastoral Perspectives

The Triumph of Christ

In the controversial superhero movie, Thor: Love and Thunder, the eponymous hero, Thor, goes to a place called Omnipotence City to seek the help of other gods like himself to defeat the antagonist, Gorr. Gorr was once a devout worshipper of his god until his whole family died and he realised that his god had been indifferent to their plight. He is now out for revenge seeking to kill all the gods because they don’t really care about their worshippers.

In Omnipotence City, the gods are revealed to be living an idyllic, prodigal life, sheltered from the concerns of the humans who worship them. They are portrayed as brazen, selfish individuals who use their powers only for their own amusement.

While the movie takes much poetic license in its portrayal of the deities of the ancient world, there are some similar aspects. Pagan deities were often deemed to be powerful but capricious beings, often acting for their own interests. No one could predict how they would act in any given situation and whether they would show mercy to their followers. Despite all this, they were still lauded and worshipped in magnificent temples and portrayed in heroic statues where stories are repeated of their great feats and triumphs.

When you compare Jesus to the rest of the gods who were well known during the time of Jesus, how does he fare?

Despite having the powers to control the weather and the waves, Jesus never used this power to impress his worshippers. His followers were often just his ragtag team of disciples, including women who would not be considered as reliable witnesses amongst the Jewish community. His first miraculous act was rather humble; he simply changed water into wine. Though on many occasions he healed the sick and handicapped, he never bragged about his deeds to others. The most powerful act he probably did was to raise people from the dead which was only mentioned thrice in the Gospels.

Though a King, Jesus never rode a mighty chariot and conquered vast territories of his enemies. On the contrary, he rode a donkey. He didn’t hurl mighty thunderbolts from the heavens to smite his foes either. His most spectacular display of power was arguably when he walked calmly across the mighty waves and chided the winds to stop.

Finally, Jesus died in disgrace, executed upon a wooden cross as the result of a corrupt trial. He did not contest the outcome but walked willingly into his enemies’ clutches. After his burial, his body was not found but there was no dramatic transformation scene (accompanied by a rousing orchestra score) showing Jesus to be who he truly is. This enabled his conspirators to perpetuate the lie that his body had been stolen by his followers. Even after his resurrection, Jesus still retained his human form and showed his scars to his disciples.  His final act on earth was to rise up into the sky till he disappeared behind a cloud! Where was the glorious triumph?

Weighing these against the spectacular exploits of other gods, it is hard to argue that Jesus would have stood out as a particularly noteworthy ‘god’ of his time. Yet, his is the only legacy that lasts until today.

In modern day Greece you will find many ruins of temples dedicated to their gods, but there are no longer people who worship them. In contrast, in almost every country on earth, there are group of believers who continue to believe in and actively worship Jesus.

This is because God was not indifferent to the plight of humanity. Jesus came down to earth in the form of a helpless baby that He could identify with us and also suffer for our sake. Paul’s letter to the church of Philippi reminds us of Jesus’ humility, Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8)

In his coming, Jesus also waged the most amazing battle against Satan’s grip over us and set sinners freed from the bondage of sin. Indeed, Jesus’ death upon the cross was the final masterstroke in God’s magnificent plan to redeem all of us. It was the perfect sacrifice that satisfied God’s wrath and defeated Satan’s plan (to separate us from God) completely. Jesus now sits on the throne beside the Father and when He returns, he will also be Judge of the world. His appearance will be terrifying for his enemies who will finally recognise him for who he truly is (cue heroic music).

This Easter, as we celebrate the acts of our Lord and Saviour Jesus, the Christ, let’s reflect on the tremendous sacrifice and incredible power demonstrated through His death and resurrection. His was not some fantastical story written by human hands but a life-giving truth grounded in the Son of God, who through his humility and submission, revealed God’s love and grace. It is a story that has the power to break the bondage of both sin and death and reward those who believe in it with eternal life with the triune God. This is the triumph of Christ that we celebrate today.