Monday, June 02, 2008

Sermon 5/25/08 "Seeing the Lion with Eyes Wide Open in Prince Caspian"

“Seeing the Lion with Eyes Wide Open in Prince Caspian”
Mark 8: 22-26

As many of you know, the move Prince Caspian was released last weekend. This is the second movie in The Chronicle of Narnia series, the first being The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The Chronicle of Narnia was written by C.S. Lewis in the 1950’s. There are seven books in the series. C.S. Lewis is largely know in the secular world for having written The Chronicle of Narnia, but in the church he is also known for writing some of the greatest Christian classics of all time. He is the author of Mere Christianity for example, which is read world wide.

The Chronicle of Narnia is often read in two different orders. The movies are being released in the order in which the books were published making Prince Caspian the second book in the series. In chronological order, Prince Caspian is actually the fourth book in the series. Often the Chronicles of Narnia are read as Christian Analogies, but Lewis actually preferred them to read as stories first. This being said, he did base the Narnia stories on the Jesus event by imagining a world that was in need of redemption and using this as a model for how that would look. Then, he adds that by seeing all seven books, you get a picture of redemption.

1. The Magician’s Nephew – creation and evil entering Narnia
2. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe- Passion and Resurrection
3. Prince Caspian- Restoration of the true religion after corruption
4. The Horse and His Boy- The calling and conversion of a non-believer.
5. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader- The Spiritual Life Lamb.
6. The Silver Chair- Continue war against the power of darkness and rasing of an old king from the dead with Alsan’s blood.
7. The Last Battle- The coming of the Anti-Christ. The end of the world and the last judgment.

Prince Caspian picks up the story where The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe leave off. In LWW, you may remember Lucy; the youngest of the four children (Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy) discovers a new land hidden in the wardrobe of the professor’s house. Eventually the other children discover Narnia as well and they learn that the White Witch has been making it “Always Winter, Never Christmas.” She is also trying to capture the four children because there has been a prophecy that four humans would bring peace to Narnia. Aslan, who represents the Jesus figure in the book, is killed by the White Witch when he dies in place of Edmund who is a traitor. Alsan is resurrected because when an innocent person dies for someone else, death is turned backwards. Aslan and the children free Narnia and become kings and queens.

Prince Caspian takes place after the children have been back in England for one year and they are on their way to boarding school when suddenly they find themselves in Narnia again. This time, hundreds of years have past by and Narnia is not the same place where they ruled as kings and queens. The evil King Miraz is now ruling because he killed the rightful kings and queens. He has raised his nephew Prince Caspian, who is the rightful king. King Miraz has tried to rid Narnia of all memory of Aslan and the old days of Narnia, but Prince Caspian’s tutor has told him all the stories.

This book primarily is about people in Narnia seeing Aslan even when he does not appear to be present. In the Bible, there is a similar theme about seeing God even in the midst of misunderstanding.

In Mark 8: 22-26 we read of a story about Jesus healing a blind man,
They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man's eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, "Do you see anything?"

He looked up and said, "I see people; they look like trees walking around."
Once more Jesus put his hands on the man's eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Jesus sent him home, saying, "Don't even go into the village."

As you think about this story, keep in mind that the disciples just saw Jesus feed 4000 people with 7 loaves of bread and they were worried about getting food for themselves because they forgot to bring it on the boat. Jesus says, “why are you so worried about having food… you have eyes but did not see and ears you did not hear.”

In this context, being blind means more than just not having sight, it means not having understanding. Then Mark tells the story of a blind man coming to Jesus to be healed. When Jesus spits on his eyes, the man says that he sees people, but they look like trees walking around. Jesus repeats this again causing his sight to be restored.

The passage causes me to wonder, “Why did it take Jesus two attempts to heal this man’s blindness?” This question is particularly important when you read on in Mark and see Jesus in the same position heal a blind man with one attempt. I believe when we compare this story to the disciples lack of understanding, Jesus is trying to make a point. The blind man is being compared to the disciples. Jesus could have healed him, but wanted to prove a point that the disciples understood what Jesus was saying just like this blind man could see the first time. They were only seeing partially.

In Prince Caspian, Lewis gives us a great analogy about the stages of seeing God. Trumpkin, a dwarf, has been rescued by four children and told them of the dangers against Prince Caspian, the true king of Narnia and the five of them are on their way to meet up with Prince Caspian. Narnia is unfamiliar to them now and they get lost. At a pivotal moment, when they have to make a choice to either walk along the high gorge or to go down towards the water in hopes of finding a crossing, Lucy thinks she sees Aslan and she believes Aslan is leading her to follow him among the high cliffs. The problem is that none of the other four see Aslan so they do not really believe she has seem him. Peter even asks Lucy, “Why would Aslan be invisible to us?”

We often ask similar questions of God. We wonder why some people seem to have a better understanding of God than we do. We often believe that if we can’t see or understand something then it must not really be true.

Lewis gives us some insight into why the four could not see Aslan while Lucy does. First, Edmund is the only one of the four who agrees to follow Lucy. He does this not because he knows Lucy has seen Aslan, but because he has failed to trust Lucy in the past and regretted his decision. The reason Edmond cannot see Aslan is that he simply has a lack of understanding.

Peter cannot see Aslan because of his own pride. He believes that if Aslan is really there, he ought to be the one that sees him. If he cannot see Aslan, then he must not really be there. Susan on the other hand, denies Aslan being there for connivance sake. She even confesses in the book by saying,

I really believed it was him when he warned us not to go down to the fir wood. And I really believed it was him tonight, when you woke us up. I mean, deep down inside. Or I could have, if I’d let myself. But I just wanted to get out of the woods.

Trumpkin, the dwarf did not see the Aslan because he only believes in things he can see. He does not believe in the old stories or magic. The reason we have a hard time seeing God clearly, I think, revolves around the same reasons.

1- Lack of understanding ( Edmund)
2- Pride (Peter)
3- Inconvenience (Susan)
4- Only believe what you can see (Trumpkin)

The disciples could not understand the things Jesus was telling them and doing in their midst for these same reasons.

Fortunately, both the Mark passages and Prince Caspian show that God can help us take our spiritual blindness and bring understanding. Each of the four people who originally cannot see Aslan at the beginning, eventually see him as they blindly follow him. I believe the Gospel of Mark tells us that while the disciples may not have seen fully at the beginning, they begin to see clearly as the follow Jesus, especially after the resurrection. Seeing God’s truth is gradual if you choose to grow by following Jesus.

Lewis writes in his essay called “On Obstinacy of Belief”

[A]mbiguity is not something that conflicts with faith so much as a condition which makes faith possible. When you are asked to trust you may give it or withhold it; it is senseless to say you will trust if you are given demonstrative certainty…. When demonstration is given what will be left will be simply the sort of relation which results from having trusted, or not having trusted, before it was given.

In other words, Lewis is saying that not knowing all the facts does not conflict with having faith, it makes faith possible. God will not give you the facts because those are only given as a result of how you have trusted. This is the truth told in Prince Caspian. They never see Aslan until the trust to follow him. We never see God until we begin to trust and follow him.

I want to end this message by looking closer at Lucy’s actual encounter with Aslan after she has seen him, but could not convince the others to follow him. Here is the dialogue.

The book makes it a little clearer that Lucy should have followed Aslan regardless of what the others did. She was given sight to see him and she should have not given it to the others. Instead she should have been the leader.

Often times I see this played out in our own lives. We have been given the greatest gift, the gospel of Jesus, yet so often we allow others to lead us away from God rather than using the gift we have to lead people to Jesus. Being able to see and understand comes with a great responsibility. In the book, Lucy has to wake up the others and get them to follow her as she follows Aslan. Our call is to help others follow us as we follow Jesus.

1 comment:

patrick said...

they cut out some of that part where Aslan confronts Lucy about trusting her convictions, but i guess they had to make it appealing to the masses... great observations!