Jesus Christ: the ultimate Avenger (part 3)

The Avengers

Last but not least……

The Avengers are quite arguably the greatest collection of heroes in the comic book world— though I’m sure the X-men and Justice League would have something to say about this.

Collectively, they possess the intelligence, strength and ability to defend earth from the clutches of destruction. In the previous two posts, we examined four of the six heroes depicted in the film (there are more Avengers in the comic book series) who make this team what is: Hawkeye, Black Widow, Captain America and Thor.

That, of course, leaves us with two: the Incredible Hulk and Iron Man.

I have purposefully left these two characters for the last of these posts, namely because they are the most popular (I think) of The Avengers. Not only did popularity play a role, but also difficulty. These heroes presented the biggest challenge to drawing comparisons to our hero, Jesus Christ.

Though difficult, this task was certainly not impossible. At the very root, the Hulk (Bruce Banner) and Iron Man (Tony Stark) epitomize the team’s strength and intelligence. Both Banner and Stark work as the brains of the operation, drafted to use their expertise to locate the Tesseract. Additionally, these two do a lot of the heavy lifting on the battlefield, each demolishing their fair share of the invading Chitauri.

Jesus is certainly smarter that the average bear, as he confounded the doctors and lawyers of the Jewish faith even from his adolescence. His strength is evident in bearing all the burdens and infirmities of those to whom he ministered.

With this, then, let us examine Christ’s similarities and differences with these characters on an individual basis.

THE HULK

The green monster is probably the strongest force in the action-adventure universe. I have not seen anyone who can go toe-to-toe with his sheer strength and destructive power. Not only has he leveled opponents, but cities as well.

Much like the Hulk, and even aside from Jesus, there is a person in the Bible with striking similarities. When Jesus and his disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee to go to the region of the Gerasenes, they were confronted with a man who was demon-possessed.

Mark 5:3-4 describes this man, “This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him.”

We learn from Jesus’ dialogue with the man that he was possessed by a demon named, Legion. The demon, however, says that “we are many.” From the language of Roman militarism, we know that “legion” was a designated term for a delegation of what could be as many as six thousand soldiers. The many demons that had entered him, then, combined to form the persona that would take over this helpless man.

We quickly learn from this account that as formidable and terrifying as “Legion” was, he was even more afraid of Jesus.

Verses six and seven of Mark 5 continue, “When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!”

Eventually, Jesus would send the army of demons into a herd of pigs, who rushed down a steep bank into the lake where they drowned.

Jesus was always willing to stand flat-footed against his enemies. If Legion is an example of this, the reason would certainly be that he exerted his authority over them. This was even this case with the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4)—satan himself.

In the film, the Hulk gets his opportunity to stand face-to-face with bad-guy Loki. Loki, refusing to be intimidated by the behemoth that dwarfs him in size, demonstratively proclaims his divinity. The Hulk then responds by snatching Loki in mid-rant and tosses him around like a rag doll, slamming him on the ground several times.

Jesus’ one-on-one encounter with his (and our) story’s main villain comes when he “was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1). After forty days of tempting, during which Jesus ate nothing (fasted), the devil gives it one last shot.

Satan tempts Jesus three additional times, each falling in line with the model for temptation, “the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16). Jesus thwarts these attempts by quoting Scripture; “it is written” was his reply to the devil’s tactics. When he finally ran out of ammo, the Bible says that the devil “left him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:12).

Though satan did return to incite Judas Iscariot to betray Jesus, leading to his crucifixion, it would actually turn out for Jesus’ good and satan’s undoing—much like Loki turning Banner into an enraged Hulk resulted in his ultimate downfall.

Jesus says, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:18).

The Hulk’s driving motivation was always his wrath. In fact, anger is the key to turning a modest scientist into the not-so-jolly green giant. Turning over cars, taking out helicopters and “smashing” bad guys are all the result of his wrath.

On the contrary, Jesus’ motivation was quenching the wrath of the Father, of which we were all deserving. Ephesians 2:3 reads, “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the craving of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.”

Christ graphically bore this wrath for those who would come to believe on him:

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5)

Because of Christ’s sacrificial act of love, Romans 5:9 is now our reality: “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!”

IRON MAN

Iron Man is one of the more glamorous heroes in the Marvel universe. Though a noble protagonist, Tony Stark does have a bit of an ego.

Then again, who wouldn’t?

If I were in his shoes—had his money, success and a chance to be that close to Scarlet Johansen—I would be pretty full of myself. Added to this is the fact that Iron Man is one of the coolest superheroes ever!

As a result, he was not the most cooperative person. Throughout the movie, there is a progression in Stark’s character. When he first agrees to become a part of the Avengers initiative, we see him constantly doing his own thing.

He rebuffs Captain America’s council every time and even when seemingly committing to the team cause, he performs his task with a splash of bravado—like when he subdues Loki while in Europe.

The story line presents a road of obstacles and even tragedy, in the death of agent Coulson (Phil), that humble Stark into full acceptance of the team’s agenda. His change was so drastic that he looked to Captain America for orders in the critical battle scene of the film.

Surprisingly, Jesus also had to endure a process that would cultivate a solemn commitment to his team’s agenda—his team being heaven.

If you will recall, one of the most intense moments of Jesus’ life came on the night of his arrest, in the Garden of Gethsemane. Luke 22:42-44 details:

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

There came a point when Jesus, actually, desired what was contrary to the will of God. Matthew records that Jesus prayed this prayer three times, indicating the degree to which Jesus did not want to drink from the cup of God’s wrath (Isaiah 51:17).

Though he opposed it, Jesus would quickly get back on board with the plan of God. Hebrews 4:8-9 records, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”

The coolest part about Robert Downey Jr.’s character is not his wealth or wit, but his awesome suit of armor. To be sure, Iron Man, in the plainest sense, would not be who he is without the armor. Tony Stark is not a superhero until he is equipped with his high-tech personal arsenal.

Stark’s dependence on his armor is an echo of Jesus’ reliance on another factor aside from his own person—the Holy Spirit.

After Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit descends upon him and inaugurates his call to ministry. Jesus, then, was “full of the Holy Spirit” as he was led into the wilderness to be tempted.

He returned to Nazareth “in the power of the Spirit” before making a bold proclamation at a typical Sabbath-day worship service. He says, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).

Jesus’ ability to do anything that he did, whether preaching, healing or performing any miracle, all came from the Holy Spirit. In much the same way as there is no Iron Man without the suit, there is no Jesus without the Spirit.

In fact, it was the Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead and guaranteed our salvation. Romans 8:11 reads, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.”

Finally, in one of my favorite scenes in The Avengers, Tony Stark engages Loki in a conversation while in Stark tower. Tony proceeds to “threaten” Loki, calling roll on the short, yet impressive list of warriors that comprise the team.

While conversing, however, Stark says something that I found quite interesting. He says, “If we can’t defend the earth, you can be damn sure we’ll avenge it.”

Stark’s expectations and those of Christ are on opposite ends of the spectrum. While Iron Man seems fairly confident in his team, he is not sure that they will actually win.

Jesus, though, had the utmost assurance of a successful mission. Luke 19:10 informs, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

The fact you (presumably) and I have bear the name “Christian” is evidence that his mission was a success. By confessing with our mouths that Jesus is Lord, and believing in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, we have laid hold to God’s gift of salvation (Romans 10:9).

This same salvation is available to anyone willing to follow this formula. For this reason, we do not call Christ our Avenger but our Savior.

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~ by christianballenger on May 19, 2012.

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