If Superman revealed himself to you and told you to jump off a building and fly like him, or lose your life and find it, or pick up a cross and come follow, would you?
How would you know that the kindness of Clark Kent wasn’t just an act?
When I was a boy, my father was my Superman.
When I was in college, he was tried by denominational leaders and removed from the church that he had pastored for fifteen years—my home.
It made me angry at the church, and though I’ve had a hard time admitting it, angry at my not-so-super Superman Dad: He didn’t stop them.
God once revealed to me that I went into the ministry because I hated the church and was attempting to do what my dad hadn’t done. I heard God audibly: He said, “Peter, you don’t love my bride very much, do you?”
First Point (from last week): If we expect the people in our community group, our “church,” to be Superman, we’ll end up crucifying Clark Kent.
Second Point (from last week): Superman is not the people in your community group, but he is rising from the dead within them. So, if we just do our best to love Clark Kent, Superman is bound to show up.
Third Point (from last week): Superman, who is infinite in strength is revealed in weakness.
Think about it: Every superhero we love has a weakness that exposes the heart. But if that weakness is an act, that superhero isn’t a superhero, but a super villain.
(Zeus, the Greek version of the Superman, used to disguise himself as weak and mortal men in order to take what he wanted from vulnerable young women. His weakness was just an act; he didn’t make love, he stole it.)
So, does Jesus have a weakness, and how do we know that it’s not an act?
Superman’s weakness was Kryptonite… and Lois Lane.
Perhaps Jesus’s weakness is sin… and us.
So, is Jesus’s weakness just an act? Well, it’s at least as real as you.
Jesus didn’t sin, but God “made him to be sin, who knew no sin, that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
It wasn’t Satan or iron nails that held Jesus, the Eschatos Adam, the Super Man, to the cross; it was his love for you and the fact that you sin against him.
He cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus speaks those words now, through us, whenever we’re honest with God about our fear that The Faithful One isn’t faithful, whenever we confess our lack of faith in God—our sin.
Hell is believing that you are God forsaken.
On the cross, the Eschatos Man descended into Hell and did what you could not do; it takes faith to confess your lack of faith to the Lord God.
“Alone of all creeds, Christianity has added courage to the virtues of the Creator,” wrote G.K. Chesterton. It takes courage to pick up a cross or confess your sin.
Courage is Faith, Hope, and Love in a faithless, hopeless, and loveless place.
Sin is a lack of Faith, Hope, and Love… it is a weakness in your will.
Jesus is God’s Will.
“I will boast, all the more gladly, of my weaknesses,” writes Paul, “that the power of Christ would rest upon me… When I am weak, then I am strong.”
Fourth Point: In your community group, all the more gladly boast of your weaknesses.
Your group is not an accountability group, resource group, or pity party.
Your group is not the Savior, but those with whom you surrender to the Savior.
In Lystra, Christ in Paul performed a sign and a wonder, healing a man crippled since birth.
The people began worshiping Paul and Barnabas as the gods, Hermes and Zeus.
Paul was scarcely able to restrain them from offering sacrifices to him.
Then Jews from the synagogue arrived, and they persuaded the people to stone Paul to death.
A better word for “synagogue” might be “church” (or what we usually mean by “church”—the organization that we build). The synagogue was Paul’s church.
The name “Jesus” means “God is Salvation.” So, to worship “God is Salvation” is to sacrifice your old god, that is, “I am my own salvation,” or “we—my group, my church—are salvation.”
Well, Paul was stoned—that is dead, or good as dead—but a few “disciples” gathered round…and he rose and entered the city.
But it wasn’t only Paul’s body that was broken and Paul’s body that rose.
In that small group of disciples, there appears to have been a woman named “Lois” (Seriously—2 Timothy 1:5!), her daughter, and her grandson: Timothy.
They are the Church that Jesus builds, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against her—not a building, institution, or program, but people who gather, confess their sins, pronounce God’s Grace, and wait on “God is Salvation,” the Superman, Jesus.
Fourteen years ago, I preached on this passage, and I sat down.
My wife grabbed my arm and said, “Peter, I just saw your dad.” (He had died three years earlier.) “He was so young! He was so full of life, and his eyes were on fire!” (In other words, he looked like Superman.) “He had a bowl in his hand. He held it out and said, ‘Peter and Susan, do not be afraid to drink from the cup that the Lord has for you.’ Then, he vanished.”
Within four weeks, what happened to my dad in Littleton, Paul in Lystra, and Jesus in Jerusalem, happened to me. That was the birth of the Sanctuary—not an institution, but groups of people who confess their sins, pronounce God’s Grace, and wait on the Superman.
I’ve been terrified to share these things, for fear that people will think I’m incompetent like Clark Kent (and I am) or worse, that I’m saying that I am the Superman (and I can’t make him happen).
This week in prayer, I felt like the Lord said to me, “Peter, the ‘bride that you don’t love very much’ is you… the weak sinner; that is you—the real you.”
That’s what a bridegroom wants: a bride that knows she can do nothing without her groom, but everything with him—she can become his body, and even give birth to his life . . . but not by dressing up; only by dressing down.
Fifth Point: The Superman’s weakness is infinite Strength. It’s the power of Love. God is Love, and Love binds all things together— in particular, the body of the Superman.
Why would we trust him? Because of his strength…or because of his weakness?
Just look at him there, on the tree, naked, beaten, body broken, and blood shed.
Is it an act? To the folks in Lystra, Paul wrote, “I bear on my body the scars of Jesus.”
Jesus died and rose in Paul and Lois and Timothy: the Church.