Last night I sat down with a group of friends to watch a Batman movie, but it wasn't the one most people watched this weekend. 2008's The Dark Knight is considered by many to be the finest superhero movie ever made. Part of me wonders if this conclusion somewhat rests on the idea that Batman, or Bruce Wayne, isn't all that super. One point that came up in our post-viewing discussion was that the movie is really a crime drama and character study of 3 men. The three men are all tested by a self-proclaimed agent of chaos who simply exists to disrupt their calculate order and expose who they really are. In this case, the superhero piece is just some extra fluff for action sake. And don't get me wrong - this is top-tier action filmmaking, which I love.
For me, Nolan's trilogy is the shining example of how theology and film cross. People love this middle chapter for many reasons, but the one I keep coming back to is the ending, which remains one of the best of any movie I've seen. Jesus-follower or not, there is something about the final actions of Bruce Wayne that resonates with us. There is an indwelling cry for justice, an admiration for the sacrifice, and a longing for retribution. Commissioner Gordon's son states simply "he didn't do anything wrong," and something in us says YES - this is noble and good.
This weekend we celebrate the God-man who on Friday was hung naked on a tree as a condemned thief and on Sunday walked in robes from the grave as a coronated king.
The life we could not live and the debt we could not pay were both shouldered by a man who, realizing that this was the only way to make us right and give us a hope and an object of faith, Jesus acts not just as a hero but as something more.
Nolan's Gotham City is a ticking time bomb on the verge of destruction at the hands of villains who would leave fate up to chance and chaos. Bruce spends most of the film deciding if this problem is hit task to bear. He pursues his own desires and even allows another aspiring hero to take a fall for him. In the end, Bruce realizes his position; in some ways he's just a man, but in other ways he can be more. Batman goes on to save nearly every character in the story. In the case of Harvey Dent, a man who tried so hard to be the perfect reflection of hope and justice that Gotham needed, Bruce was able to preserve his standing. Dent's sins and shortcomings were atoned for in the sacrifice of Batman. The city itself was saved by having their faith rewarded. They needed someone they could put their hope in outside of themselves, and Batman was able to preserve their White Knight.
Batman clearly acts as a Christ figure. While he struggles with the weight of the task he's been given, he eventually recognizes and submits to what the people he loves need. He embraces the accusations, hatred, and rejection of those who could not sustain themselves in order to give the gifts of hope and of a right standing. We watch an innocent man chased into the night by dogs, and immediately ask ourselves if this is the end because something in our hearts cries out for redemption.
The night is darkest just before the dawn . . .
So today we celebrate the Lamb who was sacrificed for us, not just to die but to punch a hole through death, creating a way of escape for any who would believe in Him. Jesus tells his disciples in Luke 24 that his bodily resurrection implies very personal things for us. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is alive in His people. We can respond in faith knowing that our King was also our atonement. In Him we have more than a hero who rescues: we have a King who reigns and a Father who loves.
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