Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Gospel in Disney: Jesus, Lion of Judah


Today we begin a new series looking at the Disney classics and we start with the LionKing. This idea of a lion king that Disney picks up is actually a Biblical idea: it starts all the way back in the time of Jacob, who had 12 sons, one of whom was named Judah. When Jacob is dying, he pronounces a word over each of his sons. These words would come to define their lives ... that’s the power a father has ... the power to define what a child is like and when Jacob came to Judah, who wasn’t his oldest son, he spoke a special word about Judah and his future descendants. Let’s hear that word again:

Genesis 49:9-10
You are a lion’s cub, Judah;
    you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
    like a lioness – who dares to rouse him?
10 The sceptre will not depart from Judah,
    nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
    and the obedience of the nations shall be his.

Notice a king is prophesied who will rule the world ... they wondered for years who that king would be and when David came along they thought it was him. And he was a lion of Judah, and he ruled long and relatively well, but the nations didn’t obey him and so they continued to wonder who this king would be. At the time of Jesus there was a huge expectation of this messianic king and the early church came to the realisation that Jacob’s prophecy over his son Judah was fulfilled in Jesus. In Revelation 5, while John is weeping at what he is seeing in the vision the Lord gave him, one of the elders says to him:

Revelation 5:5
Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed.’

Now, we are going to look for the gospel in a few Disney films. Now before you say: “Now Cedric’s preaching from Disney!” ...  I’m not preaching from Disney, I’m preaching from the gospel and looking at these well-known films to see how gospel ideas have permeated them. You might remember a few weeks ago in our Back to Basics series, we saw how the Kingdom of God is like yeast that works its way through dough; as we look at some Disney movies, we are going to see how the Kingdom principles of the Gospel work their way into the most unexpected places ... even into Disney movies. Such is the power of the gospel.

Watch video 1 on YouTube

Early on you notice that this is a story about a father and a son. King Mufasa and his son, the future king. In one of the early scenes we find the father teaching his son and he tells him there are certain things you are to do and certain things you’re not to do; and one of the things not to do is he mustn’t go to the elephant graveyard ... it’s a dangerous place for a little cub because they can be eaten by the hyenas that live there. Now of course, we know that when a parent tells a child what they are not supposed to do ... what does the child want to do ... the exact thing they’re not supposed to do, which is exactly what Simba does ... and he gets into a lot of trouble. This is called “original sin” and Paul says we have inherited this from Adam ... we have an ingrained bias, which makes us turn away from God rather than towards Him ... and in order to overcome the bias we are born with, Jesus says we must be born again, this time of the Spirit. Then we get the right bias, but for the rest of our lives we have the daily, hourly, minute by minute choice of which one we choose to live by. When we live by the bias we are born with, we sin, we go to the “Elephant’s graveyard” ... you know your “Elephant’s graveyard” don’t you, and you go there often. It needn’t be that way.

Now, in every good story, there is the protagonist and the antagonist. Mufasa and after his death, Simba are the protagonists. The antagonist is Mufasa’s brother, Simba’s uncle ... and his name is  ... Scar. Scar represents the dark side in all of us and when you see this character you’re meant to be repulsed by him, but at the same time you’re meant to see a bit of him in you. You see unbridled jealousy, covetousness, a desire for power and control and status ... all things that are part of our dark side as well ... especially if they aren’t tempered in us by love ... things that can hurt us or other people and separate us from God; but for some reason we are drawn to them like a moth to a flame unless we remember whose we are and what we are. Scar represents not only the darkness in us, but he represents the devil as well.

Watch video 2 on YouTube

Now, the interesting thing in the film is that the dark side is portrayed by a lion, just as the good side is. Sin often comes dressed up as good. Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, but in 1 Peter 5:8 we read: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. That’s a powerful picture of a lion who invites you into the dark side. So we need to ask, where am I tempted, where is my dark side, how do I stay away from it because I don’t want to give Scar, the lion, a chance in my life? 

Do you need to pray for strength in the face of temptation this morning?

Now Scar creates a situation in order to kill his own brother and his nephew ... this is what sin does, it leads you to do things you would never have thought you would do. It’s interesting watching Scar here: the word devil means slanderer and the word satan means accuser. In Rev it says that Satan was the accuser of God’s people. Sometimes he lies to us to make us feel worthless or guilty for things we weren’t really responsible for, like the children who are abused when they are children and they believe they are to blame. Or sometimes we are guilty but the accuser, the Satan, plays the role of saying you can never be forgiven for this. What you did was so horrible that your only choice is to run away; run as far away from the church, from God and the family you knew, because you are unredeemable.

So Scar tells Simba that he isn’t fit to live in the kingdom anymore, he must leave ... he can never be forgiven. All Simba had to do was go back to his Mom and say “I’m so sorry ... I don’t really know what happened ... I’m so sorry.” And all would have been made right. Please hear this today: the devil would convince you that you’re not worth anything ... that you can’t be forgiven ... that your life’s got little value. But that’s not what God says and that’s not what the gospel says. The gospel speaks of your great worth ... so much so that Christ laid down His life for you so that you can find forgiveness and mercy. 

Do you need to be reminded that you are precious in God’s sight this morning?

Simba runs away for years and Scar destroys the pridelands in his quest for more. Simba finds some friends, a warthog and a meerkat and they teach him this song to help him deal with his guilt and they say he just mustn’t worry about anything ... hakuna matata. It means just don’t worry, and that’s a fun way to live for a while. It reminds us of the prodigal son ... he forgets who he is and he eventually realises he can’t live this way forever. He remembers who he is ... one of my favourite parts of the film. He has a vision of his father, he’s thinking of his Dad and is reminded that his father lives in him and then he hears directly from his father: “Remember who you are ... you are my son, remember.”

We have a tendency to forget who we are ... a kind of spiritual Alzheimer’s, or amnesia. We forget who we are and turn our backs on God. Maybe you need to remember who you really are. Have you forgotten you are a child of God ... He walks with you and He loves you and He wants you to walk with Him. We need to remind ourselves daily, perhaps just after waking up “I am a child of God” “I belong to you” “I’m in covenant relationship with you” “I’m no longer my own but yours”

Have you forgotten who you are? Do you need to be reminded that you are God’s child and He is your Father.

So he goes back and at the end of the movie the king returns and paradise is restored. And that is how our story ends as well. In Revelation 21:3-5

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’

That’s how the human story ends if you are in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Are you in Him?

We struggle with the inner Scar, but the dark side always leads to destruction, so remember today we are called to serve the Lion King. We may have forgotten who we are, but today ... remember who you are: A child of the King. And finally, whatever you are going through now, will not be the final word in your life: the final word is that the Lion King will return and make all things new.

This sermon series inspired
by a Adam Hamilton
in his book

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