Sermon Podcast Audio
Heroes and Villains
I am a self-professed nerd. I love for Star Trek. This love led me at one time to attend a Star Trek convention. One thing I have never had a great love for was comic books or graphic novels. I read a lot already, so reading is rarely a recreational activity for me. But, I do love comic book movies. Batman. Spiderman. Superman. X-Men. The Avengers. I’ve been known to fight the crowds on an opening night to see one of these premieres.
I do get a little tired of the all the remakes and reboots. Seriously, how many different actors can we have play Batman? Personally, give me the Adam West Batman, the one I watched as a kid, well at least on reruns. He is the one with the awesome theme song and the amazing graphics to let us know just how intense his fight scenes were! Nothing communicates intensity like the words ZONK or OUCH splashed across the screen in primary colors.
What makes comic books and these movies so intriguing is the hero. We love the hero. We root for the hero. When the hero is in trouble, we all gasp, “Will he make it?” Of course he will. The movie is named after him!
But in every comic, we don’t just have heroes. We also have the villains. Villains like Magneto for Professor X, Lex Luther for Superman, Penguin or Joker or Riddler or Cat Woman for Batman.
In every story, there are heroes and villains, villains, who because of character flaws try to take over the world, who try to capture the attention for themselves, who try to circumvent the plans of the hero.
By definition, a villain is a cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime; a scoundrel.
Unlike the fictional stories of comic books, the Bible is a book of real stories that occurred in the past that has been preserved so that we might know God. In the pages of the Bible, we find very real people who’s lives are written about for us to learn from.
Some are held up as examples faith. models for us to follow. Others are written about as cautionary tales, for us to pay attention to and avoid. Some are truly villains of the bible. These people appear in the pages of the bible as warnings to us on how we should, or better yet how we should not live.
We begin with a villain that is actually still around today. Unlike the other villains we will look at who have died, some in very gruesome ways, this villain is still around today, trying to wreak havoc in the lives of those who are following Jesus. And that villain is Satan.
In the book of First Peter 5, Peter describes how we should be aware of this enemy and be prepared for him when we attacks. First Peter is a letter written by Peter, who was one of Jesus’ disciples. In fact, he was really close to Jesus; he was in his inner circle. Peter writes this letter as an encouragement to several churches. In these churches were people that were suffering because of their faith, and Peter wanted to encourage them and tell them not to give up.
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” —1 Peter 5:8-9
A Real Enemy
The idea of the devil, or Satan, is not a very popular idea today. We are told he isn’t real, that he is an idea created by an unsophisticated culture that didn’t have access to all our understanding of psychology.
Modern culture tries to explain him away. They say Satan is just the name for acts of evil or a force, but not a real being. And when they can’t convince us that he isn’t real, they then try to minimize our understanding of him.
We see images created to make us laugh, such as the images of Satan on Saturday Night Live or even the images we saw growing up in our cartoons, like “Tom and Jerry” or “Bugs Bunny,” with a red flannel suit, horns, and a pitchfork.
But it is very evident in the bible that Satan is a very real, supernatural, and personal entity of tremendous evil and power. And if we don’t begin with this understanding, we will fall for sure.
How can I be so sure of this?
Because not only did Peter believe, but Paul believed. In a letter Paul wrote to the Ephesian church, he writes:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” —Ephesians 6:10-11
Paul and Peter are saying the same thing. There is a devil and we need to know he exists so we can be ready for it when he attacks.
But not only did Peter and Paul warn us about the devil, Jesus himself speaks to the reality of this villain.
In Matthew’s gospel, we read that immediately after Jesus was baptized, he went into the wilderness. And while he was there, he encountered the devil. And they didn’t just have a chat. Satan was there to tempt Jesus, to try to get him to sin. And after several unsuccessful attempts, Jesus looks at a very real person and shouts,
“Away from me, Satan!…Then the devil left him…” —Matthew 4:10-11
In Mark 4, Jesus tells the crowd a story, a parable. In this story, he is talking about how people respond when they hear the good news of Jesus, the gospel. For some people, Jesus says, they hear it, but immediately Satan comes and snatches it away.
“Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.” —Mark 4:14
Satan prevents them from believing. He convinces them it isn’t true, that they don’t need this Jesus.
And again in John 8, Jesus is talking to some Jews about why he has come and why they don’t believe what he is saying. He tells them:
“Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” —John 8:43-44
And we could go on, all the way back to the beginning of creation, in the Garden of Eden, where we find the serpent tempting Adam and Eve to sin.
Maybe this is a little overkill, but we need to understand this. We have a very real enemy. He is not made up or make-believe. And because he is real, we need to understand that he isn’t benign. He isn’t sitting back sipping lemonade or watching movies. He doesn’t like the Kingdom of God and will do whatever he can to try to stop the message of Jesus from going forward. He isn’t passive in this. He is active in trying to stop people from hearing about Christ.