Spider-Man, Superman and the Christian Story
I’d like to take a minute to compare two of the most iconic super heroes of all time, Spider-Man and Superman. Their stories while being almost completely opposite, both parallel the Christian story.
Superman – Comes from another planet. He is gifted with super human strength and power and knowledge. He is all good, never lies, loves mankind enough to sacrifice himself for them. He lives on earth among men as a man, setting aside his power unless it’s needed to help someone else. The main complaint I hear about Superman is that he sees too perfect. People don’t really relate to him. It’s a nice idea, but a part of us doesn’t want to hear that we are weak and need an outside savior. We kind of want to save ourselves.
Spider-Man – He was a mere mortal. In fact, in many ways he was less than most—weak, insecure, obscure. He had no powers and was kind of the least of the least until something happened to him which transformed him. That spider bite endowed him with power. His whole being changed. He grew in confidence and ability and nobility, as he began to use those powers for the good of others and not just for himself (although that was a gradual change). Part of what people love most about Spider-Man is that he is one of them. He feels so “real”. He’s conflicted and he struggles with abandonment and daddy issues. He battles insecurity and selfishness and weakness and yet, he becomes someone powerful and special. He has a destiny and a purpose.
Here’s what’s interesting. In real life, we have no Spider-Man’s without Superman. Let me explain.
Superman is like Jesus. God himself came to live among man as a man, in the flesh, putting aside his power (except for the benefit of others), willing to suffer and even die for the sake of the helpless humans whom He loved. We may not want to hear that we are weak or that we are sinners or that we need a savior—but it’s all true nonetheless. So Jesus came, sent by His Father, dwelt among us, died and rose again for the salvation of mankind.
But, and this is where Jesus is better than Superman, Jesus didn’t just stick around here fixing all our problems for us. Instead, he gave us a gift – the gift of His power and His Spirit, and told that with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, we should expect to do even greater things than He did. He’s still there for us, but He also promised to begin making us like Him, co-heirs in the Kingdom of God.
In other words, it’s as if Superman went about making all who believed in Him His protégées…OR, if Superman started giving everyone super-powered spider bites. I know, I know, Spider-Man isn’t Superman’s protégée and the powers are completely different, but don’t you see the big idea here? If Superman is like Jesus, then Spider-Man is like a Christian. He’s a nobody; an average man who, through the intervention of something outside of himself becomes more than He is. He’s not perfect, but he’s growing in wisdom and ability. He’s still Peter Parker, but he’s better than Peter Parker. He’s a new creation in many ways.
It’s no surprise that Spider-Man is so appealing to us. His story should call to something deep in our souls because it’s the story we are meant to have and to live. His IS the Christian story. But the Christian story is nothing without Christ. For Peter Parker, he has a lousy spider bite to transform him. He has no mentor, no one to look up to who is farther down the super hero path than he is… It’s a lonely road for Peter Parker. It’s so much better for us as Christians. We get the best of both stories. We have a real Superman who not only takes a lowly Peter Parker and makes him super, but who guides and helps and mentors him along the way.
I hope that BOTH super heroes will forever serve as a reminder to you of just how amazing Jesus and the Christian life really are. May you be grateful for Superman and aspire to be Spider-Man in so many ways…