Summary: In honor of the Annual Superman Celebration in Metropolis, this sermon uses the story of Superman as a modern-day parable that teaches us about Jesus Christ. Power Point is available, just e-mail me.
JESUS IS MY SUPERHERO
Scott Bayles, pastor
First Christian Church, Rosiclare, IL
Well, in honor of the Annual Superman Celebration held this week in Metropolis, Illinois, I thought I’d share some thoughts with you about my childhood hero. The three biggest influences in my life growing up were my mom, Jesus and Superman. So as I grew up, you can imagine my excitement when I began to discover some interesting parallels between the Son of God and the Last Son of Krypton.
Jesus was the master storyteller. When Jesus taught stadium-sized crowds on the shores of Galilee, he used what the Bible calls “parables.” The parables of Jesus are some of the most captivating stories ever told. Now, a parable is simply a fictional story used to convey a spiritual truth. The parable of the prodigal son, for instance, isn’t about a real boy who ran away from home; rather, it’s about us and God’s unrelenting love and willingness to forgive. Each of Jesus’ parables starred fictional characters in everyday settings who revealed some sort of spiritual truth or reality.
That’s what Superman is today—a modern-day parable, a fictional story that conveys spiritual truth. Throughout the decades of Superman’s career, creators have drawn upon the Biblical narratives of Jesus and enveloped them into the mythology of Superman—sometimes intentionally, sometimes, perhaps, providentially. Either way, Superman has become a pop culture icon that can point people toward Jesus—the original superhero!
Now, the number of parallels between Superman and Jesus are far too numerous to cover in one sermon, but I would like to share a few key comparisons. The first is that they each have a secret personality(or secret identity).
• SECRET PERSONALITY
You know the story. Once, long ago, a rocket ship launched from the doomed planet Krypton and dove out of the sky landing on the humble property of Jonathan and Martha Kent. With mingled fascination and fear, they climb out of their Ford pickup truck to discover the ships tiny infant occupant.
Of course, Superman’s Kryptonian father’s name was Jor-El. El, by the way, is the Hebrew word for God—which is most likely not a coincidence since Superman was created by two young Jewish boys from Ohio. And, of course, it was Superman’s Kryptonian father who would give him “powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men,” but it was Jonathan and Martha Kent who would adopt him, raise him as their own son, and instill in him his humanity.
Scooping him up in her arms, Martha (who was originally named Mary in the comics) and Jonathan (whose middle name is Joseph) named their adopted son Clark Kent and raised him in a small town in the middle of nowhere where he would learn to work with his hands on his father’s farm. His father, Jonathan, would die sometime while Clark was a teenager and it wouldn’t be until he was around thirty years old that Clark would make his first public appearance as Superman.
This dual-identity (Clark Kent/Superman) has become an essential element in Superman mythology. I mean, who can forget the famous line from the George Reeves’ television series, right? “Superman...disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth justice and the American way.”
Throughout the seven decades of Superman lore, writers have approached his dual-identity in a variety of ways, but one mistake that I think story-tellers often make is thinking that Kal-El is really Superman, and that he only disguises himself as Clark Kent. The best writers know that he is just as much Clark Kent as he is Superman, and he is just as much Superman as he is Clark Kent—the two are really inseparable. He is fully Superman and fully Clark.
Does all that sound familiar?
It should. The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is just as human as he is divine, and just as divine as he is human. Jesus is fully God and fully man. The Gospel of John offers some compelling testimony about Jesus’ humanity and divinity: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1-14 TLB).
Even though Jesus was sent from above, he was raised here on earth in a small town in the middle or nowhere where he would learn to work with his hands in his father’s workshop. And just as with Superman, both sides of Jesus’ dual-identify are essential to his nature. Jesus’ humanity is important, because it sets him apart from the ancient gods of Greek and Roman mythology who sat up on Mount Olympus playing dirty tricks on the ignorant humans down below. Jesus isn’t like the gods of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, or even Judaism, who have never experienced humanity. Jesus’ dual nature reveals one inconceivable reality—God loved us enough to become one of us.