Summary: This fun sermon series uses comic-book heroes as modern-day parables, uncovering hidden spiritual messages in the stories of superheroes like Superman, Batman, and Spider-man. Most of these sermons are expository, alliterated and have PowerPoint!

Holy Heroes: Spider-man

Scott Bayles, pastor

Blooming Grove Christian Church: 11/17/2013

Good morning and welcome to Blooming Grove. If you are visiting with us today, I hope you feel right at home—like a part of the family. These past several weeks I’ve been preaching about superheroes—using the stories of these fictional comic-book characters as modern-day parables that illustrate spiritual lessons.

Last month while our family was volunteering as the Avengers for the Route 66 Mother Road Festival in Springfield, we met a very excited woman who told us about a little boy named Tyler. Tyler is four years old and he couldn’t come out to the festival that day because he was in hospital getting radiation treatments to keep his lymphoma at bay. The woman gave us Tyler’s contact information and told us how much he would love a visit from his favorite superhero, Spider-man! We made arrangements with Tyler’s mom and set up a visit last week at Saint John’s Children’s Hospital.

Although I’ve made several Spiderman costumes for other people upon request (including my own son), this was the first time I’ve gone anywhere as Spider-man myself. I got lots of smiles and waves from patients and staff on my way up to the fifth floor where the cancer patients reside. A somewhat startled security guard pointed us to Tyler’s room and when I poked my head through his door, I was surprised by what I saw. I was expecting a frail little boy, too weak to climb out of bed. But as soon as Tyler saw Spider-man he excitedly jumped out of bed and ran over to meet me. He bounced about energetically, telling me everything he knows about the Spidey and his amazing powers. As we talked, I learned that Tyler is in "maintenance" now, which means he still has radiation treatments on a regular basis, but he has been cancer free for several months! Praise God!

Tyler was a bright little boy and after noticing that I wasn’t hanging upside down from the ceiling or sticking to the walls, he said slyly, “You’re not the real Spider-man, are you?” I just smiled and confessed, “You’re right Tyler, I’m not really Spider-man. That’s because superheroes like Superman, Batman and Spider-man are just pretend. But, you know, there is one real Superhero who came to earth a long time ago with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. He gave his life to save the world. Would you like to read a comic book about him?” Tyler nodded expectantly as I handed him a copy of the Amazing Gospel and his mom promised to read it to him later. Tyler wasn’t the least bit disappointed to find out I wasn’t the real Spider-man. Instead he said that he loved my costume, asked to try on my mask, and then told me all about his own Spidey costume he has at home. Before saying good-bye, I asked Tyler to always remember the advice Uncle Ben gave to Peter Parker before becoming Spider-man: “With great power, comes great responsibility!”

Those words are the heartbeat of Spider-man comics, cartoons, and cinema.

For those unfamiliar, the spectacular Spider-man started off as puny Peter Parker—a brainy, unpopular teenager at Mid-Town High in New York. But one day, while attending a science exhibit, Peter was bit by a radioactive spider and imbued with the proportionate strength and agility of an arachnid. Suddenly Peter can scale walls and ceilings and he develops a precognitive “spider-sense” that warns him of impending danger. Adopting the name Spider-Man, Peter first uses his newfound powers selfishly—to earn money and fame. In a very telling moment, Peter witnesses a robbery, but rather than help catch the crook, Peter just looks the other way—a decision that would haunt him for the rest of his life. There’s a clip from the most recent Spider-man film that retells the story in dramatic detail.

• Play Spider-man Video Clip

Because Peter chose to look the other way instead of doing the right thing, his uncle Ben is shot and killed. This is the defining moment in Spider-man’s story. In his grief Peter finally realizes what his uncle Ben had been trying to teach him: with great power comes great responsibility! This maxim has become the moral compass that guides Spider-man’s heroic adventures.

Long before Stan Lee scripted the story of Spider-man, though, the Bible said something very similar: “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it is in your power to help them” (Proverbs 3:27 NIV). I suppose the question someone might ask after reading such a statement would be “Who deserves it?”

Jesus once told a story to answer that very question. It’s a timeless tale about a man, not unlike Uncle Ben, walking down a dangerous road in a perilous part of town. Here’s how Jesus tells it:

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