A Bigger Story, A Better Hero1
My kids love stories. It doesn’t really matter what story I read, Cat in the Hat, Fox in Socks, Spiderman, or Star Wars, my kids just want to hear stories, they love them and they always want more. But when my oldest son Hutch, was 2 ½ years old, I decided to change up the routine.
I didn’t read him a story, I told him a story. A story about “Hutch, the Dragon Slayer.”
It was a simple story really, that I made up on the spot, wanting to give my boy an adventurous tale where he could be the hero. He would set out to save the village, journey up the treacherous mountain, defeat the dragon, save the princess, and live happily ever after.
Do you know what story he wanted the next night?
And the next?
“Dadda, can you tell me about Hutch and the dragon, and the dragon cave, and the sword, and my spear and my shield, and the princess?”
“I’m sorry, what story?”
He loved it, he was constantly thinking about it and though it didn’t change, he wanted to hear it over and over and over again.
We are a people who love stories. They entertain. They distract. They have the power to take us into other worlds and adventures; they allow us to experience love, fear, excitement and wonder all within the safety of our own home or local movie theater. How many of you have grown up on comic books, video games, fantasy novels, fairy tales and princess stories?
Stories captivate our attention, but more than that, they make us yearn for something greater: for our own story to make sense and to have a plot line where we have significance.
I remember back when James Cameron’s Avatar came out, news outlets shared about people seeing the movie over and over in 3D, not wanting to go home, not wanting to go back to their normal lives because normal life just wasn’t as good.
Avatar was a fun three hours that took them into another world, but it was a defective story, defective because it didn’t help make sense of the people’s own stories. It only made their story look worse.
But this phenomena is not limited to high-tech science fiction fantasy. For me, in high school and college, it was movies like Braveheart and Gladiator, or a series like Band of Brothers, movies and tv that showed real men thrown into impossible situations revealing their true colors in the face of serious evil. But then the movie ends or the show is over, we go back to living lives that look very different.
A friend from college posted on Facebook a while back, “multitasking between bench pressing and fantasy football, never in my life have I felt so much like a man…” Now, nothing against working out or even fantasy football, but is that all there is in this grand adventure? Is that the peak of our story?
Where are the Roman soldiers to defeat? Where’s the English tyrant to defy? The Nazi army to overcome? The dragon and the dragon cave, the sword, the shield, and the spear?
The problem is, none of those stories are good enough, we need a better story; not one that pulls us out of our world, but one that makes sense of it; one that calls our name and pulls our story into a bigger story. We need the “Big Story.” And that story is found in the Bible. Pastor/author Justin Buzzard calls it the “one true story that can make sense of all we encounter in this broken and beautiful world.”
The problem then, if it really is the Bible, isn’t that you haven’t had access to this story, but rather, maybe you haven’t had the keys to unlock it.
Jesus Makes Sense of the Bible
Have you ever been watching a movie and a friend joins you late? It seems like the rest of the time they’re leaning over and asking, “Who’s that?” “Why’s that important?” “What are they talking about?” They never really get the full story.
Now, it doesn’t just have to be the beginning. While the beginning usually sets the stage, many movies have their crucial moments later on (think: Sixth Sense) that brings all the pieces together.
That key moment in the Bible comes in the New Testament in the Gospel of Luke, in chapter 24. Two followers of Jesus were walking away from Jerusalem toward a village called Emmaus talking about his trial, crucifixion and burial. Jesus, some sort of disguise, joins their little walking party and asks them what they’re talking about. They can’t believe he doesn’t know, everyone in Jerusalem knows about these events, but even more: the tomb was found empty and angels said Jesus was alive.
But an empty tomb hasn’t brought these followers joy, just confusion. So Jesus is compelled to clear things up:
And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
I love that story because, oh! how I long to have heard that conversation; to hear Jesus open up the Old Testament and explain how it pointed to Him.
20 verses later Jesus appears to His disciples and He does it again:
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,
Jesus is saying that the entire Old Testament is about Him. Jesus is the key to understanding the Big Story of the Bible. But in what way is it all about Jesus? He continues…
and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
All of the Old Testament is pointing to Jesus – His death, His resurrection and His good news shared with the nations. It’s not that there a few prophecies scattered among the Old Testament, but that the entire Old Testament and therefore the entire Bible is about Jesus from beginning to end.
“In the Old Testament God points forward to him and promises his coming in the future. In the New Testament God proclaims him to be the one who fulfills all those promises.” – Vaughan Roberts.
Meaning we can only begin to make sense of the Big Story of the Bible if we first know that it is about Jesus and the salvation God offers through Him. Creation (Genesis 1-2) sets the stage, the Fall (Genesis 3) sets up the problem, and the rest of the scriptures unfolds the incredible rescue plan, pointing to and culminating in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
As a better Noah, Jesus saves the remnant from the grave.
As a better Isaac, Jesus is the sacrificed One and only son.
As a better Moses, Jesus frees his people by his own blood, from slavery to sin and death, and as the law bringer places it in their hearts rather than tablets of stone.
As a better Joshua, Jesus leads his people to a better land.
As a better Judge, Jesus is the savior that breaks the cycle of sin.
As a better King, Jesus reigns because of his perfect obedience to the Father; as the great shepherd over his people with all wisdom and authority.
As a better prophet, Jesus is the full representation of God, not just His words.
And a better Ezra and Nehemiah, Jesus leads his people from complete exile and alienation from God into a kingdom that will never be shaken.
And there is far more! The rest of the New Testament follows the church and its leaders who unpack the implications of Jesus' radical disruption of the plot line, and help us to live in light of our place in the story until the glorious ending when everything broken will be undone.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away…
From Creation to New creation, God has had a plan to bless and dwell with His people and the plan all along was for it to happen through Jesus.
Jesus makes sense of the Bible, the Big Story. However, it is not just a story.
Jesus Makes Sense of History & Your Story
Harry Potter is just a story. Seven books that tell of seven years of a young wizard’s life that ends in an epic battle with evil. Throughout the series you get hints of what must come: marked with a scar, a strange connection between Harry and this evil one, a prophecy that tells of his fate. But when the prophecies are fulfilled and the story ends, it doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) cause you to run around and tell your friends, “We are saved! Voldemort is gone! Harry lives! We don’t have to live our lives in fear anymore!” That would be ridiculous, because it’s just a story. Beyond your entertainment, it doesn’t actually affect you.
But the big story of the Bible is different.
The Bible is revealed into and connected to our world, which means that Jesus is also the one that makes sense of history.
This isn’t just the truth of a religion, this is THE truth, the story that explains the entire world. Adam’s sin that causes problems for humanity in the Bible is the same sin and death that causes problems for everyone on earth. From our physical decay, to our relational problems and the hate and selfishness that pervades our world, the Bible understands, the Bible explains. It’s written for this world and the answers it gives are for this world too.
Galatians 4:4 says that God sent Jesus “when the fullness of the time came…” God didn’t just place Jesus in the pages of a book, but sent Him as flesh and blood into a real geographical location on a day, month and year that is part of our timeline.
Jesus came, not just into a story, but into history, directly into our world to bring rescue to all who will trust in His name. And it is this news, this rescue and restoration Jesus brings for which our world still longs.
But if Jesus is the one who makes sense of the Big Story, and History, He is also the one who will make sense of your story.
Because well, what is your story really? What’s the plot line? What’s the adventure and who is the hero?
I think if we’re honest with ourselves, our stories leave a lot to be desired. They fall short of what we’d hope for in a story because of our failures, our lack of power, and our inability to see a purpose that lasts beyond our spot in the ground.
Much of the Big Story of the Bible is anticipation for the rescuer, but the rescuer has come. His name is Jesus. Yet often we still live like He hasn’t. We’re in a bigger story, but we’re still trying to be our own hero; trying to provide our own rescue and we can’t do it.
This is even written into the juggernauts of modern storytelling: the Marvel Cinematic Universe. From the first time these “heroes” have assembled, we witness that not only are they not strong enough to do it alone, but often they create bigger messes just by being there. Yet that is part of the appeal. I think we are drawn to these flawed heroes because deep down we know that even if we were super, we still wouldn’t be enough.
But here’s the good news: the Big Story isn’t about Hutch the Dragon Slayer, it isn’t about Derick the Pastor, it’s not about You the (CEO, student, athlete, Mom, Dad, Adventurer, Maven, whatever), but it is about what God is doing through Jesus. When we discover that 1) He is the hero and not us, 2) He is inviting us to join His story, and 3) in His story our story makes sense and has purpose, only then will you find what you were really meant to do: walk with Jesus to bring God glory.
It’s simple really: We bring our problems. We bring our need for rescue. He brings the solution, and the solution is Himself. Jesus is the hero that conquers dragons.
Maybe it's time to dust off that Bible again and see Jesus as the hero we need, and the Big Story that brings Him to you.
Will you trust Him with your story? Will you enter into His?
Derick Zeulner is an associate pastor at South Shores Church. He has a M.A. in Theology from Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, CA and he loves the wacky adventures of doing life with his wife, Rebecca, and 4 kids.
Resources for seeing Jesus throughout the Scriptures: