Summary: Everything that Superman aspires to be in imaginary tales, Jesus is in reality—and so much more. The story of Superman is really a modern day parable for the story of Jesus Christ. This is the first in a series of youth lessons title: Jesus Is My Superher
The Smallville of Nazareth
Between the child rocketed from the doomed planet Krypton and the symbol of truth and justice Superman is destined to become, lies a vitally important aspect of Superman mythology—Smallville.
Catching fire upon entering Earth’s atmosphere, the baby Kal-El’s spaceship looked more like a meteorite streaking across the Midwestern sky. Swerving off the road in their Ford pickup truck, Jonathan and Martha Kent are the only witnesses to the mysterious spacecraft’s crash landing. Both fascinated and afraid, Jonathan and Martha climb out of their overturned truck and into the impact crater created by Kal-El’s arrival. But, both their fear and their hearts melted when the ship revealed it’s tiny infant occupant.
Jonathan and Martha had been trying for eight years to have a baby, but, so far, had been unsuccessful. In fact, in Superman: The Movie, while coddling her precious boy, Martha explains, “All these years, as happy as we’ve been, how I’ve prayed and prayed the good Lord see fit to give us a child.” Although Jonathan was hesitant at first, Martha persuaded him to take Kal-El into their home and raise him as their own son, giving him the name Clark Joseph Kent.
Jonathan and Martha are farmers on a modest piece of land just outside of Smallville, Kansas. The farm has been in Jonathan’s family since 1871 when Nathaniel Kent first settled there shortly after the Civil War. Although, his Kryptonian heritage would provide Clark with “powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men,” it was his upbringing in Smallville that would help define who he was to become. In the first issue of Superman, Jerry Siegel writes, “The love and guidance of his kindly foster-parents was to become an important factor in the shaping of the boy’s future.”
Nowhere in Superman lore is this seen more prevalent than in the television series Smallville. David Nutter, who directed the pilot episode of Smallville, said in his commentary, “I though there were a lot of metaphors between Clark and Jesus actually—and I tried to throw in as many of them as I could.”
In one of the coolest episodes to date, Rosetta, Clark discovers his heritage. He learns about Krypton and receives a message from his father, Jor-El: “On this third planet from the star Sol,” the message reads, “you will be God among men...”
As Clark struggles to come to grips with his destiny, Jonathan takes him by the shoulders and looking him in the eye, says, “Clark Kent, you’re here to be a force for good, not for evil.”
“How can you be so sure?” Clark replies.
“Because I am your father,” Jonathan answers. “Because I raised you, and I know you better than anyone.”
It may have been Clark’s Kryptonian parents that made him Super, but it was his earthly parents that made him a Man. Sadly, in Superman: The Movie as well as in Smallville, Jonathan would die from a heartache while Clark was still in his teenage years. But his mother and the lessons he learned from his earthly father would continue to influence him all the days of his life.
Jonathan and Martha are the quintessential Mary and Joseph. Believe it or not, Martha was originally named Mary in the first Superman comic book (the name was later changed without explanation) and Jonathan’s middle name was (and still is) Joseph. So, the young couple who would raise a Superman, was named Mary and Joseph.
Like Jonathan and Martha, the earthly parents of Jesus came from humble beginnings. Joseph was a carpenter who, like a farmer, would work primarily with his hands in a small town called Nazareth. He too was hesitant to accept the child God had sent at first. Because Joseph and Mary had not yet had sex, he believed that Mary had been unfaithful to him. So, Joseph “planned to divorce her secretly” (Matthew 1:19). It took direct intervention on God’s part to convince Joseph to accept Mary’s pregnancy and their unborn baby.
John Byrne would add an important element to Superman’s story in his 1986 revision of the comic book legend. In his telling, children on Krypton are all born by means of genetic birthing matrices—basically they are all test tube babies. Jor-El sends Kal-El to Earth while still in his Kryptonian birthing matrix, and Kal-El is technically “born” when the matrix opens on Earth. Superman is, therefore, born of a virgin.
Scott Beatty describes Jonathan and Martha as “God-fearing folks.” The Bible also tells us that “Mary’s husband, Joseph, was a good man” (Matthew 1:19). Unfortunately, the last time we seen him is when Jesus is about twelve years old. Most Biblical scholars surmise that Joseph, like Jonathan, died when Jesus was still in his teenage years. But, just a the Clark’s upbringing would forever influence his life, Jesus’ earthly parents played an important role in his makeup. You see, Jesus’ humanity is just as important as his divinity.