By Kaycie Kelly
Second Place Winner of the 2016 Scribenda Summer Essay Contest
Jesus is my Superhero.” Those were the words I saw posted big and bold on the back of a t-shirt. Call me irreverent, but it made me laugh. It sounded so cheesy, as if we were trying to advertise Jesus. “Lookie here kids, Jesus is just as cool as Superman.” Out of all the awe-inspiring, glorious names of Jesus (Almighty God, King of kings and Lord of lords, to name a few), superhero is all we could come up with?
But though at first laughed, I now realize that I was wrong. I was the one being cheesy—plus a little too big for my britches. When I really consider Jesus as a superhero, I have to change my original opinion. In fact, ‘Superhero’ is quickly becoming my favorite name for Jesus
What do superheroes do? My little brother, an avid fan, could promptly tell you: “They beat up the bad guys.” The nine-to-five of superheroes is to give the villain a licking, saving the world in the process. But what did Jesus do? Hebrews 2:14b-15 says that, “He himself likewise partook of [flesh and blood], that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection defeated the villain Satan and brought salvation from sin and death for all who believe. He is a superhero down to the very jots and tittles.
But Jesus didn’t follow the superhero trend. He set the trend. He created the very concept of superheroes back in Genesis 3:15, where God told Satan, “[Jesus] shall bruise your head.” Jesus is not just a superhero. He’s The Superhero. Romans 11:36a says, “For from him and through him and to him are all things.” All of creation points to Jesus. Superheroes, whether in movies (like Superman) or books (like Aslan), point to Jesus by defeating villains and saving people, just as he did. They point to his salvation by being pictures of His salvation.
But why do we love superheroes? People of all ages, ranges, and stages watch the movies, buy the books, and sport the tees. What’s the secret?
Everyone knows this world isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. Loved ones die and leave us in gut-wrenching agony. Nations are riddled with war, disease, and poverty. Abortion takes out babies in storms—and many don’t care. There’s pain, disaster, and death here, always reminding us that this is no paradise.
It’s this imperfection in the world—the pain, disaster, and death—that sends Muslims to their prayer mats and pilgrims to their penance. Mystics start meditating and the puerile start partying to try to escape from this world. Dissatisfied with what we’ve got, we long for something better. We search for an out, for deliverance, salvation, karma, or whatever we think can help us or make us happy. Unless we find salvation in Jesus, we are like hamsters on a wheel, ever running but getting nowhere.
It’s this longing and searching that makes us love superheroes. Sinking into a theater chair or snuggling into our couch at home, we peer into the fictional world of a superhero. It’s far from utopia there—a nasty enemy is prowling, flying, or slithering about, an enemy whose sole aim is to conquer the helpless populace. But just when everything looks at its worst, the superhero steps in. Destroying the bad guy and saving his people. He rids the world of pain, disaster, and death, bringing joy, peace, and life. We see the credits roll or turn the last page with satisfied smiles.
We love superheroes because they give what we desire: salvation. We want joy, peace, and life to come to us. Superheroes temporarily meet this desire as we experience their salvation in a story. We like having our desire met, so we come back for more.
But if we love superheroes because they bring salvation, that means we love superheroes because they image Jesus—because they are pictures of his salvation. So how can both Christians and unbelievers love superheroes? How can people love superheroes—an image of Jesus—without loving Jesus himself?
People can love a painting of a woman without loving the real woman. Likewise, people can love superheroes and not love The Superhero they point to. Though people can enjoy superheroes in stories—just like we can enjoy Mt. Everest, grey-haired grandfathers, and Bengal tigers in God’s Story—not all will come to see Jesus as The Superhero. Not all will turn to him for real and eternally satisfying salvation.
Even so, not all unbelievers will stop at loving the fictional superhero. God’s pointing to Jesus through superheroes is not in vain. Rather, God can use superheroes to serve as a springboard to launch people to a better understanding of Christ’s salvation. God causes people to see that just as a superhero saves a world from a villain, so Jesus, The Superhero, has saved them from Satan, The Villain, giving them salvation and eternity with God. They will know Jesus as The Superhero.
So rejoice over superheroes. They are another marvelous way that God has made to point people to him and his salvation. If you are feeling moved, join me in calling Jesus The Superhero. My Superhero. I’m thinking about making some t-shirts. Would you like to place an order?