March 31, 2013 by Pastor Ben McIntire
Many of you have read the Harry Potter series, or watched the movies. But if you haven’t, let me tell you the main idea. Harry Potter is an orphan boy who learns that he has special abilities and can do magic. He finds out when he is offered an education by Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft. There he learns all about the magical world that is hidden behind our own, and he also learns about a terrible villain—Voldemort—who is responsible for the death of Harry’s parents, and also for the lightning bolt scar on Harry’s forehead. Harry received the scar when Voldemort tried to kill him with the curse, Avada Kedavra, but it failed and bounced back on Voldemort. Because of this, Harry is famous among the magical people as “The Boy Who Lived.” When he gets to school, he is guided by the Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, and his friends Ron and Hermione as they seek to learn how to use magic and finally to find a way to defeat Voldemort once and for all.
The reason I bring this story up, is that the plot is centered around a theme that concerns us all—the triumph of Love over Death; the exact message of the Easter miracle that we will celebrate on the last day of this month. I also bring up Harry Potter because he’s so popular. Not only have the books sold millions of copies, and the movies too—but he’s got his own video games, Lego sets, and even a theme park in Orlando. As a marketing major, I’m always curious: what makes Harry Potter so popular?
The answer is not just that the books are fascinating and well-written—although that’s true. The answer is that the theme of Love’s victory over Death is one that resonates in our very souls. As creatures created by God, we have a natural, fundamental attraction to God; theologian Blaise Pascal called this the “God-shaped vacuum (or hole)” in our being that seeks to be filled. I am convinced that the reason for the amazing success of the Harry Potter series is their ability to tap into that deep spiritual longing for an experience of the truths of life, love, and death that is taught by Christianity and denied by secular culture. Human beings are designed for Christ, whether we recognize it or not! And because these stories “sing along” with the same melody as the Great Story of God in Christ, we are drawn to the resonance of their message.
That message is really the Easter message. To put it simply: we have a problem—our sins separate us from God, and nothing we can do is able to fix that broken relationship. All the good things we can do in this life are good and may help make life better for us and others, but they aren’t enough to cover over the sins we’ve committed. The worst part is, sometimes we start to get too proud and arrogant over our good deeds—which makes those good deeds into sins of pride! I don’t need to spend a lot of time talking about sins, because most of us are perfectly aware of the fact that we do a lot of things we shouldn’t. And we also know that we all must face the ultimate consequences of our sin—Death. As they say, if you stretch out the timeline far enough, the mortality rate for everyone is 100%.
So what are we to do? It’s a hopeless problem and there’s nothing we can do to save ourselves from death. Strangely enough—that’s the struggle of the evil Lord Voldemort. His quest in the Harry Potter novels is a search for power over Death. First, he tries creating these magical objects called “horcruxes.” To make a horcrux a wizard places a piece of his soul into an inanimate object so that even if he is killed, his soul still survives and he can be restored to life again. This is what happened to Voldemort when he tried to kill the infant Harry Potter. The horrible thing about horcruxes is that to separate the soul, one has to murder another person—an act so terrible that the murderer’s soul is torn, and the piece torn away is placed into the horcrux object. Voldemort didn’t just make one of these objects though, he made six in his attempt to elude Death. As the story progresses, Harry and his friends find ways to destroy these horcruxes so that Voldemort might finally be overthrown. As his Plan A begins to fail, Voldemort starts to hunt for three objects called the Deathly Hallows—which is the title of the last novel. The story goes that whoever possesses the three Deathly Hallows: an invincible magic wand called the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone which can raise the dead, and a cloak that makes you invisible; that person will be the Master of Death—they will have power over Death and therefore be able to avoid the Grim Reaper. Here is a video clip from YouTube that tells the story, it’s worth the watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YWpBiREKsg
What is interesting, is that we do the exact same thing. I don’t mean that we search for wands and cloaks—but we seek out material things in this life in the effort to avoid death. Think about it! Millions of dollars are spent every year on beauty products, hair coloring, diet food, vitamins, and exercise equipment in an effort to look and feel younger, healthier and more full of life. We spend billions on safety and security like cars with airbags, smoke detectors, and bike helmets not to mention insurance on everything! And then there’s healthcare… A multi-billion dollar system with the primary goal of avoiding death—sometimes at all costs. And guess what, we all…still…die.
But I said the theme of this Easter Message is the “Triumph of Love over Death,” and so it does. When Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome came to the tomb on Easter morning they were anxious about the big stone that sealed the opening. They believed that their Lord was dead. They had seen him beaten and crucified on Friday. They had seen him cry out and die on the cross. They had seen his body taken down and carried away by Joseph of Arimathea to be placed in this tomb. So it seemed that now, the final obstacle for them was the stone that sealed Jesus’ tomb—the only thing left to do was to move the stone and anoint the body with spices. But of course when they arrived, they found the real Resurrection Stone! It was already rolled away, and the tomb was empty! Instead of Jesus’ body, they found a messenger in a white robe who said, “Jesus is not here, He is Risen!”
You see, Jesus showed his love for you and me by accepting death. He once told the disciples, “There is no greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” What Jesus did on the cross was to take all our sins upon himself, and there they died with him. That is how his death brought the forgiveness we so desperately need. And then on Easter morning, God showed the world again, how much he loves it by raising his Son from Death. God shows that he is Master even over Death, not by avoiding it like Voldemort—but by enduring it. We could say Jesus defeated Death on its own turf, with the “home field advantage.” Instead of swerving around it, Jesus blasts right through, shattering the power of Death once and for all. And this is great miracle that all his other miraculous healings and signs pointed to throughout his life and ministry, so that now as we see his full power, glory and love revealed—we can echo the Roman Centurion who said, “Truly this is the Son of God.”
In the symbol of the Cross, God reveals his grace and mercy; and in the Resurrection Stone he reveals his Glory and our Hope. But the final question this Easter is, “Where is Jesus in all of this?” The stone is rolled away, but the body is gone! In the Gospel, the messenger tells the women to tell the disciples that Jesus has gone ahead of them into Galilee, and they will see him there, just as he promised. That’s what important for us to hear today too. Even though the disciples had failed Jesus, deserting him in his final hours—Jesus does not fail them. Even in the midst of trials, suffering, and death—Jesus goes ahead of us, too. He first went through the trials, the suffering, the death…and also the resurrection. May we all look forward with hope, to that day when we shall share in that resurrection to be united with Christ and one another for all time.
Risen Lord, I praise you for your glorious promise of eternal life and the resurrection of the body. Help me live my life as one who has received this promise and is no longer bound to the things of this world, but instead is bound to Christ. In Jesus’ name, Amen.