by Rev. Doug Gray
Welcome back to Narnia! It’s our fourth message inspired by C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Why go to fiction for our series? Because C.S. Lewis was a deep thinker, and he asked himself the question, “If Jesus were to go to world with talking animals, what would that look like?” Of course, Aslan came as an animal (a Lion) and is the Son of the Emperor-beyond-the-Sea, just as Jesus came as a human and is the Son of the God. So in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, we might gain some insight into the life and death, resurrection and meaning of Jesus. Spoiler alert: We will turn to the Bible to learn about the Deep Magic and Deeper Magic of our universe.
This morning, we are going to start with a short video clip from the movie, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Lion, Witch, Wardrobe (2005) 1:22:28–1:23:48
So what did you hear?
Promise — that he will be King
Not who you think I am — only to find that Aslan already knows
more powerful than any of us
defines right from wrong
governs our destinies
I want my family to be safe
Very good! The problem in the book is that Edmund is a traitor, and as the Witch tells us, “for every treachery I have a right to a kill.” So how can Edmund become one of the Kings of Narnia?
The Deep Magic of our world is that when someone does something wrong—someone has to pay the price. We see it all the time. When I was in school, if I didn’t study, I didn’t do well on the test. When I was mean to someone, I got in trouble. One time, we were on a family trip in Iowa, and we were traveling with a bunch of cars that were going over the speed limit. We topped a hill and started down it, and my mom saw a State Trooper standing in the middle of the highway just waving the whole bunch of cars over to the side of the road. Turns out that the State Police had an airplane pacing us, and then they called it in. That morning, my mom waited in line to get her ticket. And what’s she going to say? She was breaking the law, right? My mom was driving too fast, and she got a ticket. Our universe has this right and wrong woven into its fabric—physically and morally. If someone punches a wall with their fist, their hand may get hurt or even broken. If someone steals or cheats, aside from legal implications, we trust that there will be a penalty that will come to them somehow—if not now, then later. In our world, we often call the Deep Magic, God’s Law.
I see two problems with the Deep Magic or Law of the Universe. First, the Law is relentless and merciless. In the short-run or in the long-run, someone always pays. The Universe can’t let someone off the hook out of mercy—the Law is the Law. But the relentlessness of the Law is out of control—we have all betrayed someone or something. We have all failed to live up to all the good we could do, and we often fail in horrible ways.
Second, the Law means the sacrifices can never stop. In the Jewish tradition, to find forgiveness meant killing animals every time one sinned, so that the animal paid the price instead of the human. But that only meant forgiveness for that sin and only created a blank slate from which to start over. Yesterday was Cynthia’s and my 28th anniversary. Over the course of those years, I have done a few things—wrong. Alright, I have done lots of things—wrong. Alright, I do something every day—wrong. Alright, I blow it all the time. How glad I am that she’s willing to start over, but imagine if she never let go of everything wrong that I do. That would mean an endless parade of sacrifices, but I could not actually getting better. According to the Law, that’s what our lives are like. Our brokenness can lead only to death, not life—only to fear, not trust. As the author of Hebrews writes, “Every priest goes to work at the altar each day, offers the same old sacrifices year in, year out, and never makes a dent in the sin problem.”
Spoiler Alert: In Narnia, Aslan dies in Edmund’s place. The Witch kills him on the Stone Table.
Lion, Witch, Wardrobe (2005) 1:52:40–1:55
And Jesus came to us who were helpless with brokenness and unable to escape the endless need for sacrifice, and offered Himself in our place, His blood for ours, paying the price that we should have paid.
Like Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy, we have a promise too—that we are children of the Most High God. We may, like Peter, worry that God doesn’t understand who we really are, but Jesus already knows. Like Aslan, more than anything, Jesus wants His family to be safe.
Like Edmund, we can have confidence when we face consequences for our choices—“Edmund had got past thinking about himself after all he’d been through and after the talk he’d had that morning. He just went on looking at Aslan.” We will just keep our eyes on Jesus, and so we learn to trust.
Like Susan, we may be confused. She asks, “But what does it all mean?...”
“It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward. And now—”
Like Lucy, when we hear Jesus say, “And now—” we know it will have this Deeper Magic, this deeper mystery underneath, but also leading us forward. Like Lucy, when we realize that Jesus is risen and that our new life has begun, we can say, “Oh yes. Now?” said Lucy, jumping up and clapping her hands. And we will have all the joy and peace we need.