Since his creation, it has been said that Superman is a type of Christ figure. For example, his heavenly Kryptonian father sends his only son to earth as a baby. Also, Superman is 33 years old when he finally reveals his great powers to the world — the same age as Jesus when he went to the cross.
In the latest installment of Superman, Man of Steel, the producers drew strongly on this imagery, which makes it a good “Hook” for talking about Jesus, especially leading up to Christmas when we celebrate Jesus being sent to earth. Use this as a study or talk following the Hook, Look, Book, Took model.
Hook: I got the power
Start with a round of questions:
- Which super-hero power would you most like to have, and why?
- Which of Jesus miracles would you most love to be able to perform?
- How could you use your super/miracle power to make a difference – in your community? your country? the world?
Play the Man of Steel Official Trailer #3
Ask students to watch and make a list of comparisons between Jesus and Superman.
Some examples might be:
- Sent to earth by his father
- Came as a baby
- Grew up among us
- Most of his life he hid his true identity
- Raised by ordinary parents: a hard-working dad and a saintly mum
- For some a ‘guardian angel’
- Never quite fitted in
- Gives the people of Earth an ideal to aspire towards …
- Performed miracles (super powers)
- Rescued people
- Gave people hope
- Looked human
- Quotes that could also fit Jesus: “My son”; “He’ll be an outcast.” ; “He’ll be a god to them”; “What if a child dreamed of becoming something other than what society had intended … “ ; “If the world found out who he really was they would reject him.” “He will help them accomplish wonders.”
(See also the media comments in Extra Resources below)
Book: Why He Came…
Ask: “What did Superman offer the world?”
Then look at what Jesus offered by coming to the world.
Invite their ideas first, then use the following either for a short talk or for a more in depth Bible Study:
1. Jesus came to Reveal God to Us (Colossians 1:15-19, John 15:15)
2. Jesus came to Reconcile us with God (Colossians 1:19-23)
3. Jesus came to Teach us how to Live (Matthew 5:3-10, 7:1, 12, 24 or scan through all of The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew Chapters 5-7, for teaching on how to live)
Print these three reasons Jesus came onto cards (download the printable file here) and invite young people to pick the one that means most to them and to share why.
NB: If they are not Christians, invite them to pick the one they could appreciate most e.g. they might like to know more about God or more about how to live.
Thank God for sending Jesus, highlighting the reasons that the young people have spoken of as important to them.
Give them a chance to thank Jesus for coming to Earth at Christmas and growing up as one of us.
Acknowledge that our for real ‘super man’ is not the Man of Steel, but the Son of God.
Superman has always had a bit of a messiah complex, born as a modern-day Moses in the imagination of two Jewish guys during the Depression and over the years developing and amplifying his Christ-like characteristics.
So it made sense that Warner Bros. Pictures spared no effort in using the Jesus connection to attract the increasingly important Christian audience to see the latest film in the Superman franchise, “Man of Steel.”
The studio hired a leading faith-based marketing agency, Grace Hill Media, to hold special screenings for pastors, and it developed an extensive website of Christian-themed resources — including specially-edited trailers for use in churches and “Man of Steel” sermon notes.
Director Zack Snyder says the religious symbolism is a part of the Superman story that he wanted to embrace.
“Making him Jesus is a mistake, but allowing people to have a conversation about whatever relationship they have with the Jesus story through the movie is undeniable in the material, and if you don’t include it in the film, then you’re really sort of denying the mythology that is Superman,” Snyder said. “The Christ-like parallels, I didn’t make that stuff up,” director Zack Snyder told CNN. “That is the tried-and-true Superman metaphor.”
But not fully – In Man of Steel, Superpowers, not love, conquers evil. Bash the bad guy, don’t turn the other cheek. A weakness of the film is that Superman’s resorts to violence to accomplish his goals — namely, killing his enemy, the evil General Zod. That was new, and it broke what comic book fans traditionally call “the rule” of the superhero ethos: Thou shalt not kill, even though you can. The very point of Superman, in particular, was that he always found a solution without killing, which would have been so easy for him to do. He was a role model in making the right moral choice, not using force to win the day, more like Jesus who conquered evil with love and sacrifice and preached love for enemies.
To be sure, this latest Superman shares and even boosts many of the Christ-like characteristics of most every Man of Steel: He is sent to Earth as an infant to save mankind and is raised by a hard-working adoptive father and saintly mother. He must hide his supernatural gifts until he reveals himself as an adult and then, at age 33, after performing many great deeds, he hands himself over to the authorities.
This Superman even strikes an arms-outstretched crucifixion pose as his otherworldly father urges him to return to Earth and “save them all.” The movie is, as the Christian reviewer Paul Asay put it in ‘Man of Steel’, Man of God?, “a Bible study in a cape.”
Except for the last part.