Summary: Based on themes found in C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, this message examines the nature of faith and our belief in the unseen.
I’ve got to tell you all that I am incredibly excited about this week. For one thing, my first male progeny will likely be born this Friday. But there is another event that has really divided my anticipation. Now many of you know that I have what you might call a mild appreciation for C. S. Lewis’ writings. In fact some of you may call it an obsession, but I think that’s a bit unfair. On that very same day, the film version of Lewis’ most popular work of fiction, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is being released and it’s sure to be a huge success over the next several weeks. And since the story is full of Biblical imagery I thought it would be good to spend some time delving into some of the themes of the book.
I don’t want to give away too much before you have a chance to see it, or read it, but the story centers around four siblings (Peter, Susan, Edmond, & Lucy) who are evacuated to the country home of an eccentric old professor during the London air raids of World War II. One day, while the children were exploring their new home Lucy, the youngest of the family decided to investigate a large old wardrobe tucked away in a spare room of the house. At first she is just excited to find it is full of fur coats, but the biggest surprise comes when she finds that the wardrobe has no back and that it leads into a snow-covered forest. She comes to find out that she’s found her way into a magical world called Narnia which is filled with talking animals and all sorts of other mythical creatures.
Eventually, Lucy finds her way back through the wardrobe by following the light of a mysterious lamppost. And when she returns from Narnia she’s excited to share her adventure with the others but they don’t believe her story. They think she’s simply making believe. In fact Edmond, the younger of the two brothers is actually pretty mean about it. He keeps asking her if she’s found any other new countries in other cupboards all over the house.
Now, this is just the beginning of the story, but to me it says a lot about the nature of faith what it means to See the Unseen. Lucy believed in Narnia because she’d been there. The others didn’t believe because they had never experienced anything like it. Their belief was limited to what they could examine with their senses. It reminds me of one of Jesus’ disciples named Thomas. After Jesus’ resurrection, the other disciples told him that they’d seen Jesus. But Thomas said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” Well, that’s exactly what happened when Jesus came to them again. And John 20:29 says, “Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” In a lot of ways, modern western culture is like a culture full of Thomases, believing only what we can see.
In his other writings, C. S. Lewis compared faith to learning to swim or rock climbing. You may trust your instructor and you may know logically that these things are safe and possible. The challenge is to go on believing when you’re on the cliff edge or suspended in the water. He says, “Here as in the New Testament, the conflict is not between faith and reason but between faith and sight.”
Another example of struggling to see the unseen comes from the book of Luke. It’s a common passage during the month of Dec. because it deals with the birth of Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist. You see, John’s father, a man named Zechariah was a priest in the Jewish temple. And we’re told that he and his wife Elizabeth were honorable people who strictly followed the religious laws. But they had no children and were well along in age. Then, one day when Zechariah was on duty in the temple an angel appeared to him and told him that Elizabeth would bear him a son and that son would become a sort of forerunner for the Messiah.
Now look at Zechariah’s response in Luke 1:18, “Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.”" (Luke 1:18-20, NIV)