What images do you have of Jesus? Have you ever thought of him as being like Superman?
Reading accounts in the Bible, Jesus undoubtedly could be regarded as a superhero. Some might even entertain the thought of him having a large and colorful ‘J’ prominently displayed on his chest.
Jesus as Superman, why not? After all, he turned water into wine, walked on water, calmed storms, cast out demons, fed more than 5,000 people at a time, gave sight to the blind, gave the lame the ability to walk, and healed the sick, among other things.
For quite some time, Jesus had kept his true Messianic identity a secret (to most). Those closest to him, when repeatedly told the truth, found it difficult to believe. So, this is like Superman.
However, in the early development of the Christian Church, Jesus was treated differently. They struggled to define Jesus’ nature. The ancient church fathers reasoned that it somehow existed within mystery and paradox; Jesus had two natures, divine and human, and each was complete (so 100 percent divine and 100 percent human).
Another way to think of this is that one should not diminish Jesus’ divine power, or the divine choice for the flesh and blood Messiah to also embody complete human vulnerability and weakness.
It is a mistake to simply turn Jesus into Superman. He became truly human, in part, to assure us that God empathizes with our human plight, woundedness, pain and struggle.
I love the story of the footprints in the sand. In a dream, there are two sets of footprints where Jesus walked with a person side by side. There were also times that there was only one set of footprints. Jesus said: “it was then that I carried you.” This is simply divine.
On the other hand, Jesus needed the physical assistance of Simon of Cyrene in order to carry the cross to Golgotha. This is an example of the body experiencing human limitations.
This isn’t a Superman–Clark Kent type of thing, where true superhuman abilities are hidden behind a disguise. It is absolute power and complete vulnerability combined.
This is difficult to get one’s mind around, but a wonderful benefit in knowing that God has all the bases covered – in like-weakness or other-worldly strength, God is with us.
Walter is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church and has served as parish pastor for more than 25 years.