Friday, February 23, 2018

Contending for the Crown

Like most Marvel fans, I was eager to see Black Panther in theaters last weekend. Also, like most Marvel fans, I loved it. The dazzling special effect, beautiful African scenery, well-timed humor, and action-packed fight scenes made Black Panther an absolute joy to watch. The movie touches on relevant themes like race, identity, and social responsibility—all of which revolve around an epic battle for the kingship of Wakanda.

After his father’s death (in Captain America: Civil War), the five tribes of Wakanda crown T’Challa their new and rightful king. But T’Challa must defend his crown from a challenger, M’Baku (the White Gorilla), in gladiator-style combat on the edge of a waterfall cliff, while African-drum music fills the air and Wakandan natives chant to the beat. T’Challa defeats the challenger and takes his rightful place on the throne, but it’s not long before his reign is challenged once again. When T’Challa’s long-lost cousin, Eric Killmonger, makes a claim to the thrown lines are drawn, sides are chosen, and Wakanda’s entire civilization is threatened.

I’m convinced that this theme will resonate with thoughtful Christians.

Everyone wants to be the king.

Some of us want to be the king of our workplace, or the king of our house. Some of us want to be the king of our fantasy football league. Some of us treat the highway as our own little kingdom, demanding that our minions ask our permission before they change lanes or slow down.

Kings stand above everyone else, receiving praise and reverence from everyone around them. Nothing is withheld from kings. They never come in second place, and they never have to acquiesce to another’s needs.

In the infamous words of Mel Brooks, “It’s good to be king.”

But the truth is, whether we choose to accept it or not, there is only One True King. It’s not me. It’s not you. Jesus alone is King of Israel, king of all nations, king of nature and the universe. At one point in the movie, T’Challa acknowledges, “I am king of Wakanda, not king of the world.” Jesus, on the other hand, really is the king of the world. Revelation says, “he is Lord of lords and King of kings” (Revelation 17:14 NIV).

Like T’Challa, though, Christ’s kingship is often challenged. If Jesus is the king, then we’re not. We don’t like that very much. We want to be the ones in charge. In charge of our own lives, in charge of our relationships, in charge of our destinies. Like M’Baku and Killmonger, we’d rather rebel than relinquish control.

What we need to realize is that we’re much better off with Christ on the throne. Before his death, T’Challa’s father told him, “You are a good man, with a good heart.” That’s what made T’Challa a good king. Likewise, Jesus is the perfect King. He’s just, loving, merciful, and full of grace. He doesn’t barter with lesser kings, he can’t be bribed, and he’s not corruptible. He doesn’t just do good—he is good. And the best part is—he invites all of us into his Kingdom.

Have you accepted the kingship of Jesus?