The chief villain in the Marvel’s movie series culminating in Infinity War and End Game is a blue-purple giant with a large chin. His name is Thanos. His maniacal goal of killing off half of all life in the universe is made more complex by the underlying reason behind his goal: he hopes to relieve the environmental tension resulting from overpopulation. In this, he finds resonance in the climate-concerned audience, who are now torn with sympathy for him despite his draconian approach and his general cruelty.
Doesn’t this strike a chord within us? That yearning to know what is death, why is death, and when is death appropriate? When is war and killing the right thing, if ever? And what is our ultimate meaning as human beings in this world? As we know more and more of the damage we mete out, it becomes increasingly difficult to live with ourselves in our self-indulgent nature, though we cannot seem to rid ourselves of it individually or collectively.
Why bring up Thanos now? What about this time of year makes a re-look at this movie series appropriate?
This is the Passion week in Western Christian tradition. When the last days of Jesus’ life on this earth are recalled and reviewed. On his very last day, says gospel-writer Mark, the Chief Priests and Elders met together and discussed the method of which they would put Jesus to death. The word used for this putting-to-death is θανατῶσαι (Thanatosai). "Thanatos" means death in Greek, where comic writer Jim Starlin got the name Thanos for his super-villain in 1973.
Thanos and Jesus have more to do with each other than only Greek words. In the movies, Thanos was the universe’s best attempt to deal its selfish over-consumption and other wrong choices. And that attempt in itself was so wrong and inadequate, obvious to all. Yet no alternative in the end was presented, except to ignore the problem and move on to the next group of young and beautiful people in hopes that they could distract us as momentary heroes.
Jesus, the Bible says, took all the wrong choices, the selfish decisions, the overconsumption, of all the universe, and put it all on his own back with a wooden cross and allowed himself to be destroyed in compensation. It was all of our bad choices, all our nation’s bad choices, all of our leaders’ bad choices, that took Jesus down that road he could have avoided. Once and for all time, Jesus took the cup of Thanos and, instead of finding a solution of balance, or a solution of justice meted out on the world, he drank it himself. The whole cup, full and forever.
John put it this way: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” Thanos is about judgment and death. So are the Avengers: the judgment and death of Thanos. But God loves us, despite all of our bad choices individually and collectively. And he has a plan for Salvation: both for us and for the world. That plan starts with Jesus.
So let us think about Jesus this week: his words, his suffering, his sacrifice. His story is worth considering. No sequels needed. A story that in itself brings life where there was only Thanos.
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