Summary: Comparing and contrasting Superman and Jesus, concluding that -- Jesus is the superhero who delivers God’s justice to the world in God’s way.
Super heroes are popular these days. One of my favorite shows on TV is No Ordinary Family -- an ordinary enough family which somehow ends up with extraordinary super-powers -- and how they are struggle to figure out the best way to use their powers for good -- without imploding the family.
NBC is going to debut a new superhero tonight -- a guy called “the cape.”
And I’m sure that he’ll be good -- but no super hero can match up with Superman. All other superheros are really spin-offs of the Superman concept.
So, tell me what we know about Superman. What is his story? (group discussion)
As we turn to our text this morning, Isaiah 42:1-9, we see that the desire for a super hero is not new -- an extraordinary person who will champion justice for the weak and vulnerable.
At first glance it appears that the prophet is predicting a noble royal figure -- the kind of king of which the people of Israel had been deprived.
For the kings of Israel had become corrupt and wanton people.
But as we look closely at the passage we see that the kind of universal justice -- and the deep concern for the hurting -- is way beyond what one might expect of a mere mortal king.
The prophet is looking forward to some kind of superhero -- an extraordinary character.
Now, it is no surprise that we as Christians see Jesus himself as that person -- the god-man -- come into the world to save the world -- and to deliver it from the control of sin and sinful oppression.
And in our Matthew passage this morning, Matthew 3:13-17, as Jesus identifies with the needs of ordinary people through the act of baptism -- something extraordinary happens:
vs. 16 -- “After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.’”
This is a divine endorsement from the other two members of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit shows up in the form of a dove. And a voice from God the Father in heaven declares Jesus to be the “dearly loved Son.”
What exactly this means is not totally clear upfront -- but by chapter 12 in Matthew, after Jesus has been healing the sick and experiencing opposition because of his association with the
marginal people of society, the gospel writer says,
15 “But Jesus knew what they were planning. So he left that area, and many people followed him. He healed all the sick among them, 16but he warned them not to reveal who he was. 17 This fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah (our text in Isaiah 42) concerning him:
18 ‘Look at my Servant, whom I have chosen.
He is my Beloved, who pleases me.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
19 He will not fight or shout
or raise his voice in public.
20 He will not crush the weakest reed
or put out a flickering candle.
Finally he will cause justice to be victorious.
21 And his name will be the hope
of all the world.’”
The gospel writers and the prophets are all screaming at the tops of their lungs -- “Look, look at this guy -- he is the superhero that will deliver God’s justice to the world in God’s way.”
This is the key point this morning: JESUS IS THE SUPERHERO WHO DELIVERS GOD'S JUSTICE TO THE WORLD IN GOD'S WAY.
Notice, carefully that last phrase -- God’s justice to the world in God’s way. For Jesus is not exactly the kind of superhero that people were expecting. They were looking for someone more along the lines of a kosher Superman -- but that’s not who God sends.
Let’s take a quick glance at Isaiah 42 to highlight the contrasts.
I want to make five observations from the text:
1. GOD’S JUSTICE IS UNIVERSAL JUSTICE.
Vs. 1 “Look at my servant, whom I strengthen.
He is my chosen one, who pleases me.
I have put my Spirit upon him.
He will bring justice to the nations.”
The thing about Superman is that his justice is pretty limited -- “who disguised as Clark Kent, fights a never ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way.”
Perhaps you’ve noticed that most of the story lines in Superman are America-centered -- which is understandable because he was designed to appeal to an American audience.
He protects America -- and when there are people from other places in the stories they are often villains -- spies -- enemy agents.