I was reflecting on Batman yesterday (an activity any self-respecting comic book nerd spends a great deal of time doing.) In particular, I was thinking about the final scene of the most popular Batman film, The Dark Knight. In the last scene, Batman allows himself to be unjustly blamed for the death of corrupt politician turned supervillain Harvey Dent. As he drives away, lieutenant Gordon comments, "He's the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we'll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he's not our hero. He's a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark knight."
I was thinking, in particular, about Gordon's first phrase. Batman is the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs. I turned the phrase around in my head and thought, "Not the hero we deserve, but the one we need." My mind then immediately went back to the ultimate heroic tale, the Gospel.
Jesus is not the hero any of us deserve. The Bible teaches that, while we are made in the image of God, we are fallen beings, scarred by sin and condemned to Hell for our violations of God's law. Like Dent's damaged face, our visage is damaged, unfit for heaven. God cannot allow any imperfection into heaven so He must, as a good Judge, condemn us to Hell. Moreover, we chose sin. We choose to consistently run away from God and, as a good God, He will not force anyone into His presence. To turn a phrase, sin is like gravity, all it needs is a little push. We have all taken that fall and missed the mark of God’s standard of goodness. We don’t deserve a hero. We deserve punishment.
But Jesus is the hero we need. Even though we made the decision to walk away from Him, God wanted to save us. He wanted a relationship with us. Unfortunately, God can’t overlook sin. Sin demands a price and that price is death. Someone had to die, to suffer, to pay the fine caused be our rebellion. God made a hard decision. His own Son, Jesus Christ, the second member of the Godhead, volunteered to come to earth. He lived as one of us but without sinning. Jesus never made that jump. But He was arrested unjustly and sentenced to death. Jesus was nailed up on the cross and died a brutal death. As he hung there, God looked at His son and viewed Him as the worst wretch ever to live. Our sins were ascribed to Jesus. God then released all of His wrath on His innocent Son. Jesus made the ultimate hero’s sacrifice. Like Batman, He allowed Himself to be viewed as guilty for the good of the world. Then Jesus cried aloud “it is finished!” In the original Greek, the word used here means, “paid in full!” The fine was paid. Our debt was forgiven.
Did we do anything to deserve this? No. We were the villains of this story. We disobeyed God and, through our actions, were declared guilty. But the story didn’t end! An innocent hero was allowed to die in our place and pay our fine. However, that hero still lives! He retuned to life and offers us salvation! Jesus is the superhero who wants to save you from the ultimate foe, yourself. If you accept that offer, Jesus’ perfection will be accounted to you just as your sins were accounted to Him. It’s a wonderful exchange. But God is still just. He will never force this upon you. The choice is yours.
Jesus is the hero we don’t deserve. He’s the hero we could never deserve. But He’s the one we need.