I saw Batman v Superman over the weekend and agree with The Atlantic that we are witnessing the “Twilight of the Superheroes.” The movie’s characters, plot, and lighting are dark and foreboding. The superheroes are not heroes in the eyes of those they are trying to save. According to reviewer Carmen Petaccio, “the increasing darkness of Superman, Batman, and their brethren are indicators of the American public’s anxiety.”
Successful moviemakers know the importance of connecting with the cultural ethos. So consider today’s news: A boy who spoke out against violence in Chicago was hit by a stray bullet and remains in critical condition. An intruder was shot yesterday at the Capitol. The death toll from the Easter attack on Pakistani Christians stands at seventy-two.
Virtual reality headsets will make pornography even more addictive. Protesters disrupted Easter services at one of New York City’s landmark churches. When an Egyptian airliner was hijacked overnight, we were surprised that terrorism was not the motive. (The incident is apparently related to the hijacker’s ex-wife.)
It’s easy to be discouraged about the direction our world is going. Nick Pitts quotes Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: “A world without values quickly becomes a world without value.”
But it’s always too soon to give up on God. Note that Batman v Superman premiered on Good Friday, a day of dark hopelessness that soon gave way to the greatest day of hope in human history.
Now we are in the period between Jesus’ resurrection and his ascension. Have you ever wondered why our Savior waited forty days on earth before returning to his Father in heaven? I can think of three possibilities.
One: Jesus needed to prove to his followers that he had in fact been raised from the dead.
Paul records that our Lord “appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time” (1 Corinthians 15:6). His resurrection would prove his divinity to them and, through them, to the world.
Two: It was important for the Holy Spirit to come during the Feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:1), which was nearly seven weeks after Easter.
Jews from all over the world would be gathered in Jerusalem, where they would hear the disciples’ witness and Peter’s sermon. The symbolism of Pentecost, otherwise known as the Feast of Harvest, was especially appropriate for this miracle and the ongoing work of the Spirit in the world.
Three: Jesus needed to teach his disciples the kind of King he was and the kind of Kingdom they would serve.
First-century Jews yearned for a military Messiah who would overthrow the hated Roman Empire and reestablish their nation in sovereign power. Many followed Jesus because his miracles convinced them he would be such a conqueror. Even after his resurrection, his disciples could still ask, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). He needed to teach them that his Kingdom is spiritual and that the Spirit would make them his witnesses to the world (v. 8).
Two days after Easter 2016, we still need all three lessons. Our culture needs to know that Jesus is the risen King. Christians need to depend on the Spirit’s power, not their own sufficiency. And we need to measure success by the degree to which we use our influence as Jesus’ witnesses.
Christians will be attacked until Christ returns. Sin will still tempt sinners. But every day is Resurrection Day. Are you experiencing the hope and power of the risen Christ today?