Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Who is Jesus according to Lord of the Rings?

After college, The Lord of the Rings really got exciting to me. I read the books just last year and have watched the movies (yes, the extended edition...sigh) at least 3 times each since then. In a conversation about it, one of my friends-- who is getting a Master's degree in literature-- said that one reason that LOTR (and others like it) have historically been so popular is that because people feel that the grand stories of good versus evil are more true and more "real" than the other narratives that frequent our cinemas today. In other words, we know on some level that the great stories-- where everything is at stake in the battle and where the hero might win the victory by giving up his life-- are real to us because on some level, we feel that we are actually in such a story.

In The Lord of the Rings, however, there is more than one hero. Three that stand out to me are Frodo, Gandalf, and Aragorn. All of them give their lives for the redemption of Middle Earth; all of them experience a death of sorts; and all of them rise to victory and achieve the salvation of others through their sacrifice. Gandalf gives himself for his companions in the Misty Mountains. Aragorn willingly enters the Valley of the Dead to seek reinforcements. Frodo, of course, takes the Ring to Mt. Doom to destroy it. As a Christian reading The Lord of the Rings (and knowing the author was also a Christian), I've often wondered, "which one is supposed to represent the True Hero, Jesus?" 

In seminary, I've been learning about the three "offices" of Christ; the three ways He relates to His people. He is Prophet- He came to proclaim the Truth about God and the way to relationship with Him; He is Priest- He came to offer sacrifice to God on our behalf to pay for our sin; and He is King- He came to inaugurate the Kingdom of God and to reign over it. The heroes of LOTR reveal that the True Hero doesn't fit in just one box; His role in securing the ultimate victory was and is three-fold. In other words, the three Heroes or LOTR help me to understand just how profound Christ's ministry is. Jesus, like Gandalf, proclaims the truth and helps illuminate the way forward. He, like Frodo, carries our burdens in His own body and made the payment for them. And Jesus, like Aragorn, is a King whose "hands are healing hands"; who wins the battle for the White City and who reigns over it lovingly. 

To be a Christian, then, is not just to know information about Jesus or to check a box saying, "I'd like to go to Heaven." To be a Christian is to know Jesus as Hero; to follow Him as prophet, priest, and king. It's to believe His authoritative proclamation about the truth, to receive His sacrifice on our behalf, and to submit to His lordship in the Kingdom of God. 

We are in a grand story.

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