The hero we need

While packing today, I come across two figurines in my bureau drawer. I have long forgotten why I put them there. But they make an odd combination: Horus and Batman.

Horus is the ancient Egyptian god represented by a falcon. Batman is, well, a man represented by a bat. Or is it the other way around? I bought the Horus statuette on a trip to Cairo some twenty years ago. Batman just appeared, as he is wont to do.

Looking at them in my hands, I can just imagine the tough-guy repartee:

Batman (in gravel tones): “I am vengeance, I am the night, I am Batman.”

Horus: “Screeeeeeeee.” (He is, after all, a falcon.)

 

The two of them make me think about our need for larger-than-life heroes. Ancient peoples devised powerful, yet capricious, gods. Modern man prefers his heroes to also have flaws, while still able to do superhuman feats at the most critical moments. I find that indestructibility incredibly boring. Where’s the tension in the obligatory final battle if the protagonist is obviously going to win? (Movie franchises depend on surviving heroes.)

This is one of the reasons why Jesus fascinates me. He is so unlike the mythical gods of early cultures and such a contrast to the superhero of today. When I read the gospels, Jesus comes across as fully human: he weeps, he gets angry, he feels joy, he grows weary. Sure, his miracles may seem fantastical to modern-day sensibilities, but they are never self-serving or attention-seeking. (Unlike the ones described in the apocryphal “gospels,” where a young Jesus makes clay sparrows fly.) Instead, he uses his power to bring restoration to hurting people.

Jesus is marvelous without being Marvelish.

The gods of ancient Egypt are history now. Eventually, our fascination with superhero movies will fizzle. But our need for a true hero – one who has defeated the ultimate arch-villain, death – will never wane.

I love you, Lord. I love that you are not wrapped in a cloak of mythology, but walked on this earth, eating, drinking, laughing – experiencing our humanity. And yet, you demonstrated your power to restore God’s intended wholeness for us. You continue to do that every day in the lives of your followers. Jesus, there is no one like you.

 

Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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