169 Let my cry come before You, O LORD;
Give me understanding according to Your word.
170 Let my supplication come before You;
Deliver me according to Your word.
171 My lips shall utter praise,
For You teach me Your statutes.
172 My tongue shall speak of Your word,
For all Your commandments are righteousness.
173 Let Your hand become my help,
For I have chosen Your precepts.
174 I long for Your salvation, O LORD,
And Your law is my delight.
175 Let my soul live, and it shall praise You;
And let Your judgments help me.
176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep;
Seek Your servant,
For I do not forget Your commandments.
I like watching superhero movies and reading the occasional superhero comic book. There’s something fun about seeing a noble, sometimes self-sacrificing hero face overwhelming odds and overcome the bad guys. It’s hard to conceive of Superman or Spiderman as ever being the underdog in a fight, and yet that is what we are faced with in superhero stories. Superheroes face incredible foes, imminent danger, and potential self-destruction in every story, and so we are pulled along just as if they were real, normal human beings. We are fascinated by the hero’s willingness to serve us, and we place a certain hope in the possibility of our own courage against similarly overwhelming odds. We like to think that if the chips were down and we had the opportunity to save someone’s life, we would have the superhuman courage of one of our superhero idols.
There is a recent trend – even among Christian writers – to try to justify our fascination with superheroes by pointing out their Christ-like qualities. Their compassion and courage, their truthfulness and apparent frailty, their willingness to use their powers for the good of all – these are all mentioned in reviews of movies and in articles about why we love superheroes. But there is something missing in all those comparisons between superheroes and Jesus Christ. No superhero ever teaches others to save themselves nor imparts all his or her “powers” to mere mortals. Assuredly, there are those times when the “common folk” will rise up and face danger alongside the superhero – perhaps even facing danger to save the superhero – but those are the exception rather than the rule. No, what happens in virtually all superhero stories is that regular people go on living their lives just like normal, lives they would live even without the superhero around. Their everyday lives are just the same as they ever were, and the superhero’s existence is only acknowledged by the people’s occasional need to be saved from the very worst criminals and tyrants.
No superhero ever gives us anything like the Sermon on the Mount, nor heals diseases, nor causes the impenitent to repent, nor imparts all his or her abilities to all willing disciples. The human “sheep” of superhero stories are only saved from being eaten by wolves or being driven off a cliff. They are not guided to green pastures nor given true inner and outer peace. So, you see, comparisons between superheroes and Jesus fail on the most important point: the gospel.
But the Bible shows us who Christ is, and it tells us how to live lives that don’t need superheroes. We need a Savior, someone who will save us from the eternal punishment for our sins and also bring us into a right relationship with our Creator. We don’t need saving from a burning building or a runaway train as much as we need to be saved from the eternal destruction of our souls. Jesus can do that, superheroes cannot.
In the verses we have today from Psalms 119:169-176, we return to the basic theme of that whole psalm. We see here that the psalmist turns once again to God’s Word to find hope, and he asks for the salvation which he knows only God can give. Central to that idea is that God’s commandments ARE righteousness, they do not BESTOW righteousness – i.e. we cannot become righteous by simply adhering to the law and statutes of God. However, if we love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, then we will love His Son and love His Word. We will keep the Lord’s precepts as a natural consequence of our love for Him, the inevitable result of a life transformed by God’s saving grace. We will become “little Christs” – Christians – and we will thus become like the “hero” we love. Through our faith we receive the glory and eternal life that only the Son of God has ever known. Imbued with the Holy Spirit of God, we become capable of seemingly superhuman acts – healing, prophecy, ministry, teaching, and miracles – and we move into the world carrying the gospel of Christ as the answer to the evil of this world.
Yes, in our peace with God and our transformed life in Christ, we will become a lot like a superhero – courageous, self-sacrificing, truthful, serving others. But more than that, we will be able to follow the way and exceed the worldly deeds of the One who saved us.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”
Why do we need such a Savior? Why do we need to do “greater works than these”? Because we have all “gone astray like a lost sheep.” We are in need of a Shepherd more than an occasional hero. We need someone who is always with us as opposed to someone who only comes when we are in deepest peril. The fact is, in our fallen state, we have already been in our darkest hour of need, and Christ has already saved us from Satan and certain destruction. Having been chosen to believe in Christ and saved by God’s redeeming grace, our part now is to live our lives differently, to be guided and shepherded so that we never again will fall.
That is not to say we will not face persecution and pain, that we are somehow set aside from the evil that besets the world. Rather, as followers of Christ, we become targets of Satan, and so darkness tries even harder to invade our lives. But we must remember what Paul said: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) And so we can face the world and know that the Son of God is with us to give us strength and courage, hope and faith. We have the gift of salvation, the precious gift of eternal life, and nothing is now impossible for us. “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” (Mark 9:23)
Are you ready to become a superhero? Are you ready to have an impossible thing done in your life so that you can go on to do impossible things? Christ can save us from being lost sheep, and He is willing to make us greater than we are now. Of course, as Uncle Ben said to Peter Parker (Spiderman), “With great power comes great responsibility.” That is true for the “Christian superhero,” too. We become responsible not just for our own lives but also for the lives of our fellow men, because, as Christ reminds us, we are commanded to not only love God but to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:38-39) When we repent of our sins and believe in the gospel of Christ, we are found and shepherded by Him, and then the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in our hearts. We are drawn to the Word of God as our standard, our written covenant and a source of our hope. So transformed by the Son of God, we must live as He lived, fulfilling the law even as He did, delighting in God’s law even as He did, and praising God just as He did.
Today, let God seek you wherever you are. Don’t run from Him or turn your eyes anywhere else but upon Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Let God’s Word bring you hope and guidance, and believe in the gospel to bring you to salvation. You will then find your life changed, that you will become something even greater than any superhero: a child of the Almighty God.
O Lord, be with me today through trials and temptations. Guide me in Your paths, and let Your Spirit reign in my life. May Your Son Jesus be the hero of my life, so that I can become more like Him. Don’t just save my life, Lord God – transform it! Let me cling to the blessed assurance of Your salvation, and let me bring you glory and honor and praise. Amen.