by Rick Pidcock
Our series on having a gospel-centered view of entertainment continues with another movie review. This time—Spiderman.
1. What are the overall messages of the movie?
When I first saw Spiderman, I must admit that I was having a rather difficult time finding more than just one or two themes. But I think that there are a number of beneath the surface messages that will serve very helpful to us.
The first message of Spiderman is that the battle between good and evil is real. After Peter Parker realizes that the Goblin knows who his true love is, he understands that “A cunning warrior attacks not body or mind, but heart.” In another more overt confrontation between good and evil, the Goblin breaks into Peter’s aunt’s house, just as she is praying the Lord’s Prayer. Then, he forces her to cry out, “Deliver us from evil!”
A second message is that we all need a hero. While this message is not as specifically addressed in this movie as much as it is in Spiderman 2, I think that it is made clear by our culture’s insatiable desire for superheroes. And as silly as this may sound, I think that this desire goes to the very heart of how God created us. We will delve into this idea a little bit more in our next point. But for right now, we should at least understand that this movie serves to feed into our desire for a hero that is larger than life.
The next theme of Spiderman is that identifying with the hero is going to cost you something. Throughout the movie, the Goblin tries to get to Spiderman by attacking the ones that Spiderman loves. And as the movie ends, Peter says, “The ones I love will always be the ones who pay.”
Perhaps the most well-recognized theme in this movie is when Uncle Ben says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” That is what everything in this movie is driven by.
2. How do these messages point us to the gospel?
The battle between good and evil is real.
Fantasy literature rests on the idea that there is a battle between good and evil that is bigger than the physical world around us. And yet, while this battle usually is made up of a higher evolutionary life form in the comics, we understand that the battle between good and evil is a spiritual one.
Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
We all need Christ as our hero.
Just about every comic can be summed up in one sentence: The superhero does for the helpless citizens what they could never do for themselves. As I said earlier in this article, I believe that God designed us to resonate with superheroes. Bob Smithhouser of PluggedIn Online wrote an excellent article entitled, “Why We Love Our (Super) Heroes.” He said,
“I believe we are wired by our Creator to resonate with that kind of hero. Jesus Christ arrived on this cosmic dirt clod as a baby, fully divine, yet fully man. He got hungry, thirsty and tired, just as we do. He was a blue-collar laborer. He laughed, loved and cried. He knew betrayal and pain…At the appointed time, Jesus shed his secret identity—a carpenter whose time had ‘not yet come’—and began working miracles, displaying amazing spiritual strength and yes, even seeing through things. He came to rescue us. Not by soaring through town in a flashy red cape, but by humbly enlisting us into his own heavenly Justice League before heroically laying down his life. He is the one uniquely empowered to save humanity from its eternal malaise.”
God designed us to long for a hero that can do for helpless people what they can never do for themselves in order to rescue them from their peril. And the reason why such fictitious stories resonate with all of us is that they feed on our innate desire for the hero in our own lives. That hero is Jesus Christ. He does for us what we could never do for ourselves by rescuing us from our peril.
Identifying with the Christ, the true Hero, is going to cost you something.
Hanging out with Spiderman may sound like something everybody would love to do. Imagine what people would pay for a ticket to be identified with Spiderman for just one day. Such an identification would cost more than I would be willing to pay.
And yet, the cost for identifying with Spiderman was not financial, it was physical. Peter Parker said, “The ones I love will always be the ones who pay.”
While salvation is indeed free, there are consequences for being identified with the true Hero—Jesus Christ. Please do not misunderstand what I am trying to say. Even though our identification with Christ may cost us dearly, our sacrifice has nothing to do with our rescue. The rescue is something that only the true Hero can do. But choosing to be identified with Christ is indeed a very dangerous thing.
I will never forget hearing one preacher say, “The safest place in the world is in the center of God’s will.” He should tell that to all of the martyrs.
Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
The Apostle Paul later reaffirms this truth in Galatians 2:20—“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
The power of the gospel compels us to pursue our responsibilities.
The words of Uncle Ben on his death bed are the driving force behind everything that Spiderman does. He said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
While the fictitious power of Spiderman may truly be mind boggling, the real power of Christ is eternal and unbeatable. Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” We have been given the most incredible power of all eternity—the power of God through the gospel.
Final words cut deep into our souls. Every word is cherished. Every wish is followed. And just as Uncle Ben left Peter with his last words, Christ left us with His last words before He ascended into heaven.
He said, “All authority (power) in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
We have been given the power of the gospel. And just as in Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibilities.” Our mission is to make disciples.
This mission ultimately brings me to why my wife and I moved to the Stapleton redevelopment community of Denver, CO. There are no other churches here, spreading the gospel to and living the gospel in this community. We have been given the power of the Gospel. And thus, a great responsibility.
I pray that each of us will take these echoes of the gospel found in Spiderman to heart and say with the Apostle Paul in Romans 15:18-21,
“For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.”
Bob Smithouser closes his article by saying, “Throughout history, cultures have concocted second-rate saviors that tap into people’s inherent need for a man-god…I’m not suggesting that Spider-Man and his comic book peers are dangerous counterfeits out to distract us from the one who truly deserves our affection. We simply need to connect the dots back to Jesus. After all, He’s the genuine article!”
*You can read Plugged In Online’s review of Spiderman here.