Last month issue 1,000 of Detective Comics was released. This long running comic series really found its popularity in issue twenty seven. That is when the superhero Batman premiered. Batman was immediately popular, and eighty years later Batman still remains one of the best known and most loved superheroes. One of the keys to Batman’s popularity is that he has been reinvented so many times. The Batman of the original comics is very different from the campy and silly Batman of the 1960’s, which in turn is different from the more serious portrayal in Batman the Animated Series from the 1990s. All of these versions of Batman are different from the more realistic and gritty Batman of the Dark Knight trilogy of movies. Batman has even been reinvented in plastic brick form for the Lego Batman movie.
There are multiple other ways that Batman has been portrayed and been given different spins over the last eighty years. Often these portrayals of Batman are almost appear as different characters. For instance Adam West’ 1960’s Batman who carries Bat-Shark repellent is worlds different from the gravely-voiced, intense Batman portrayed by Christian Bale. Even though all of these different portrayals of Batman emphasize different aspects of the character, they all share similarities. It does not matter if Batman is a grim and gritty detective or made of Legos, Batman’s origin story is always the same. What led Bruce Wayne to be the Batman is the tragic murder of his parents, his desire for justice so it never happens again, and the choosing of a bat has symbol to strike fear into criminals. No matter how Batman is re-imagined for a new generation those elements of what makes Batman never change. A deep and compelling origin story that resonates deeply with the fans has allowed Batman to span the generations and stay continually relevant.
Over the years different aspects of Batman have been emphasized. In the same way, different theologians and biblical scholars have put a greater emphasis on different aspect of Jesus. At times some Christian thinkers and writers have emphasized the humanity of Jesus. They find a point of connection that on Good Friday Jesus suffered and felt pain the way any other person would. There is relational power in the fact that Jesus knows our pain and died our kind of death. Then there have been other Christian thinkers and writers who have emphasized the divinity of Jesus. They find a messiah to worship in the King of kings and the lord of lords sitting at the right hand of the Father in all glory. Others have emphasized the way Jesus is the perfect Passover lamb. There are other Christian thinkers who identify with the way Jesus overturned social conventions and took bold stands for greater justice. There are a lot of different ways that Jesus has been emphasized. Much in the same way that Batman’s origin is what defines every iteration of him, there is an aspect of Jesus that defines every understanding of who he is. No matter how one seeks to emphasize the nature of Jesus, the greatest defining aspect is that he is risen.
If asked to define Christianity in just three words, I think most disciples today would say “Jesus loves you.” However, if we were to ask the original twelve disciples or if we were to ask the first generation of Christians, their response would be “Jesus is risen.” In the gospels, it is the resurrection, not the crucifixion that is the climax of the stories. Since the beginning of Christianity, we have gathered to worship on Sunday because it was on the first day of the week that the resurrection occurred. In the book of Acts and in Paul’s letters when the apostles seek to make a case that Jesus is the messiah, there first point of evidence is always the resurrection. Paul even put forth that the resurrection is the basis and most core belief of the Christian faith. In Romans 10:9 he wrote, “If you declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Jesus is the risen one. This is an eternal truth that is held at the heart of the church. Many of the different ways Jesus has been emphasized by various writers and thinkers were done so in an attempt to keep Jesus relevant. This is the same reason Batman has had so many iterations. Batman is continually reinvented to be relevant to each new generation. However, it is flawed to attempt to do this with Jesus, because Jesus never stopped being relevant. Jesus does not need to be reinvented, because Jesus was resurrected. The reason why the resurrection of Jesus was miraculous and needed when it happened is the same reason why it is so miraculous and why we need it today. Jesus is just as relevant to our everyday life as he was eighty or two thousand years ago. Across the span of time and culture our need for a savior, our need for forgiveness, and our need to know the grave no long has a sting does not change.
One of the reasons why Jesus is superior to Batman is because Jesus does not need to be reinvented. As Hebrews 13:8 states Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Jesus still meets the greatest needs in the hearts and souls of all people. He does this because he is the risen savior.
There are a lot of ways to define Jesus. There are a lot of different facets of Jesus that we can relate to. No matter what, the defining way that we understand Jesus should be as the risen one. It is because he is risen that he is the messiah. It is because he is risen that he is the savior of the world. It is because he is risen that he lives.