Has Batman ever reminded you of Jesus? That may be a bit of a longshot, I admit. But I think the question is worth asking.
For just about as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved Batman stories. The cartoons, the movies, and even the old school Adam West tv shows have long captivated my imagination. And I’m not the only one who feels this way. There’s a quotation on the internet that says something like, “Always be yourself, unless you can be Batman. Then always be Batman.” In spite of all the arguments against him (he doesn’t have any super powers; he couldn’t last in a fist fight with anyone else in the Justice League; etc.), Batman continues to be a hero to many.
For me personally, part of what makes Batman so intriguing is his context. Pain, loss, and hardship characterize Batman’s own journey. Death seems to follow him, claiming the lives of those he holds dear from his parents to his sidekick and beyond. On top of this, Batman’s enemies continually set the bar to new levels of insanity and torment. Batman’s back has been broken, his mind has been infected, his integrity has been tested, and his body is regularly pushed past its breaking point.
Two thoughts arise here. First, I would definitely NOT want to be Batman. That’s a rough gig. Second, in spite of these constant trials, any one of which would send some people running from the fight, Batman continually comes back for more. No adversary, no struggle, no mystery, and no pain can keep Batman from fighting to save his city.
Here’s where I see a whisper of Jesus. Jesus faced more than we often realize for the sake of the kingdom. Pain, loss, and hardship characterized Jesus’ earthly life. Death was often near him, both in Jesus’ ministry to the dead and the grieving and in his eventual death on the cross. On top of this, Jesus’ enemies continually set the bar to new levels of testing and trying as they sought to eliminate him. Jesus’ back was torn open, his mind was assaulted, his integrity was tested, and his body was subjected to horrendous torture by the very people he had come to save. But he kept going. He went to Jerusalem though he knew what awaited him there. He let himself be taken though he knew what he was walking into. He kept moving through the mocking and through the beatings, carrying his cross to his place of execution. Then he gave up his spirit after draining the cup of God’s wrath for sin.
As Isaiah wrote,
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Christ died for our sin. He stepped into the fray on our behalf. He died so that we might live.
Yet he didn’t stay dead. He came back, revealing to all that death and the devil had no claim on him. Indeed, as Peter preached,
“God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”
Jesus, though God, chose to step into the world of sin and make a difference. Indeed, he did what no other man could do. He laid aside his glory and became a man, humbling himself to the point of death (Philippians 2). And we have peace with God through him.
In a way, I think that’s why I love stories of Batman. Batman doesn’t need to get involved in the messiness of Gotham City. He could remain safe and secluded in his manor, far from the chaos of the crime-ridden streets in the city. But he chooses to fight, to embrace the pain for the sake of good. In a much greater way, Christ chose to face the fight for us, embracing the pain “for the joy set before him,” that he might glorify God and give life to his people. He, the true light, entered the darkness with his face set for war, and he came out victorious, leaving death dead in his wake. His is the victory we celebrate at Easter. And, as we see shadows of Christ’s fight all around us, even in Batman, we praise God for the victory he won on that day so many years ago.