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[Spoiler alert for Avengers: Endgame (2019)]
Rocket: No, Groot! You can’t. You’ll die. Why are you doing this? Why?
Groot: We are Groot.
[Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)]
How many of you watched the movie Gladiator (2000)? How many of you wanted Maximus to reconnect with his old legions who were still loyal to him and whack the **** out of Commodus and his army to free Rome? Can I see a show of hands? Well, it didn’t happen. Evil turned out to be more tricky and more powerful and Maximus was captured. All seemed lost. But Maximus won in the end, killing Commodus and freeing Rome. But it cost him his life.
We have seen variations of this story in countless movies. The good guys are helpless before an unbeatable army. At the last moment, the good guys are delivered, the powerful evil army defeated. But a sacrifice is required. Someone had to die.
Fast forward to Avengers: Endgame (2019). Thanos and his army are unbeatable. There is this scene where Steve Rogers/Captain America, stands alone before Thanos and his hordes. The odds are impossible. There is no way Captain America can defeat a foe so powerful. Yet we know what happens. At the very last moment when there was no hope, the cavalry arrives and evil is defeated. It would be satisfying if the final blow in the battle had Captain Marvel blowing away Thanos. But as always evil is more tricky and more resilient. It takes the sacrifice of a life, Tony Stark/Iron Man’s, to clinch the victory. No deliverance without sacrifice.
It was J.R.R. Tolkien who said that all stories, well all good stories to some degree, echo the greatest story ever told. Matthew Heffron reflecting on the Easter story:
As we approach Easter, we will celebrate the greatest such storyline: Jesus died in the ultimate act of self-sacrifice, and then the Resurrection. What Tolkien called the oldest and deepest desire, conquering death, happened in our world. But there again, Tolkien explains that God saved us by means of a story, but “this story has entered History and the primary world.” As the Creator, God tells His story in the primary world, so that “Legend and History have met and fused,” and the Incarnation and the Resurrection of Christ are the “Great Eucatastrophe.” Jesus stands victorious, saying, “I died, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”
The gospel story: Because of our sin we were in bondage to Satan and to death. There was no escape. There was no hope. Then in the nick of time, a Hero came and saved us — at the cost of His life.
Maybe, intuitively, believer and non-believer alike know this story. Against all odds, a hero saves us at the cost of his or her life — from Sydney Carton to Groot.
Is it wishful thinking? Is it true? Daily we are confronted by the sheer power of evil. We may do our best but at the end of it all, death awaits. Death wins. Unless the stores are true.
“We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming ‘sub-creator’ and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbour, while materialistic ‘progress’ leads only to a yawning abyss and the Iron Crown of the power of evil.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien (Quoted in Humphrey Carpenter, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography [Boston; New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.])
Those who have a heart, let them hear.