I’m currently reading the last of the Harry Potter books, The Deathly Hallows. As I’ve poured over the pages of J.K. Rowlings’ page-turning masterpiece I have often come to moments in the story that struck me as profoundly Christian.
There is Harry Potter, the hero of the story. What instantly draws you in to love Harry is his ordinary and even challenging upbringing. He isn’t particularly wealthy, good-looking, strong or influential yet he accomplishes feats no other person ever has. Harry embodies so much of what we want in a hero. When showered with praise he responds in humility by deflecting compliments. When offered bribes by the powerful he declines without a thought of self-gain. When challenged by corrupt authorities he boldly stands up to them. When thrust into situations of unparalleled difficulty and horror he acts courageously.
It reminds me of another hero. In fact, he is the hero that I believe all heroes find their inspiration because the stories of him are widespread and legendary and we are indeed made in his image.
First there’s Jesus’ upbringing. He was seemingly ordinary. He was born in a stable, and laid in a feeding trough for animals. He was from a rather obscure town called Nazareth. “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him,” Isa 53:2. He wasn’t much to look at. He wasn’t particularly strong, or wealthy. Yet his existence even from birth was swirling with extraordinary activity. The stars put on a theatrical display so extravagant to announce his birth that Wisemen traveled hundreds of miles to worship him as the Chosen One. His life was sought after when he was a baby and he narrowly escaped. He had wisdom that outmatched many grown men of the day as displayed with his visit to the temple as a boy.
Later Jesus embodied every glowing characteristic you desire in a hero. He was humble and never proud though he walked on water, healed the sick and raised the dead. He proclaimed himself as the one who would save the world, indeed he’s the only one who could, yet also took the title of servant. He was compassionate and moved deeply for the hurting, broken, downtrodden, poor, sick and disenfranchised. When threatened by the leaders of whom everyone was terrified he didn’t blink an eye but exposed their hypocrisy and evil with paralyzing questions, often entrapping them with their own words.
Then there is the sacrificial love that is prominent in the Harry Potter series. Like in so many stories, in order for others to live someone or something must die. Indeed this is at the core of any real love. All love is substitutionary. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends,” John 15:13. “By this we know love: that he laid down his life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers,” 1 John 3:16. In order to pay a compliment you must not receive one; in order to do the dishes for a spouse you must sacrifice your own rest or relaxation; in order to forgive a debt you must absorb the cost.
Jesus, the epitome of heroes, in love, made the ultimate sacrifice for others to live. Jesus was commissioned with the most impossible task: to reconcile the world to himself by dying for the sins of the world on the cross. As Jesus prayed alone in the Garden of Gethsamane he sweat drops of blood at the horror of what he must endure.
And He did it.
He obeyed his father in heaven who loved him and the world. He was lost so others could be found, he was beaten so others could be mended, and he was forsaken so others could be welcomed. Then he rose from the dead to complete the greatest ending of any story ever told.
Yet his story isn’t over. I’m not looking forward to being finished with the last of the Harry Potter books. What an exhilarating story to follow and at times get lost in. Yet, despite Universal Studios’ best efforts, and they are very good, to bring Hogwarts and Harry Potter to life, in the end it’s just a fictional story and Harry is just a fictional hero. But one hero remains. His story goes on and we are involved in it. He came to earth once, he lives still and he will come again and one day we will stand gazing at the beautiful sight of our hero coming to rescue us from this broken world and though we worship him now we forever in the presence of voices more beautiful for us to imagine will sing praises to this hero who has crushed death under his feet, who loves us and who will reign forever more.
He is my hero, he’s my savior, he’s my Lord and he lives.