by Roger McCay
15 March 2020
Scripture Passage: Acts 11:25-32
Link to Audio Version
Superman – He was born from the minds of two Jewish young men back in the 1930s, Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster. For 82 years, since his first Action Comics appearance in 1938, this icon of America has captured the imagination of adults and children. Why?
You may remember the popular TV series, Smallville, which aired for 10 years, ending in 2011. At the beginning of each show, the theme song speaks to this question of why the Superman remains such an iconic hero. The song is titled “Save Me,” by Remy Zero, where the lead singer, in a sense of desperation, screams “Somebody save me!” as part of the chorus.
Thousands of comic books, books, and movies have told the story over and over of how Superman comes to save the day when everything seems lost. People seem to crave the story and the powers of this fictional “savior.”
You may remember the Superman movie called Superman Returns, starring Brandon Routh, which came out in 2006. This was the stand-alone one that came out in-between the movies starring Christopher Reeve, in the 70s and 80s, and most recently Henry Cavill, both playing the iconic hero. Superman Returns’ storyline was a bit different, kind of out of left field, and, for continuity’s sake, I’ve found it best just to consider it an Elseworlds story from DC. It does have some pretty awesome scenes in it, though.
Anyway, Superman had gone away for five years to seek-out some trace of his home-world, Krypton. Upon his return to earth, he found out that Lois Lane, the woman he loved, had written an editorial titled “Why We Don’t Need a Superman.” She actually won the Pulitzer prize for it.
In one scene, however, Superman pointed something out to her. He gently took her for a flight high-up into the skies with Metropolis spread out all below them. It was quiet up there with just a breeze and the two of them.
Superman whispered to Lois, “Listen, what do you hear?”
And she answered, “Nothing.”
Superman paused, then in a sad voice said, “I hear everything…” He looked at her and explained, “You wrote that the world doesn’t need a savior… but every day I hear people crying for one.”
Don’t we all need a Savior? This character, born of Jewish minds, sums up very well the condition of the whole human race. We need a Savior. We saw in how God has brought the Gentiles into the tree of true Israel, engrafting them in to be part of the whole people of God, benefiting from all the promises and blessings of God’s covenant. Paul left us with a question in v. 24, which sets us up for vv. 25-32.
24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.
This rhetorical question sets up what is to follow. Paul reveals to us a mystery—a mystery concerning God’s engrafting natural branches back into true Israel, and also some of the way God is doing it. Look at 11:25-26a.
25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved …
What is Paul telling us here? It seems his motivation in revealing this “mystery” is a continuation of his warning to the Gentiles (which he repeats in vv. 18, 20, and 22) to not boast against the Jews and to not be arrogant and conceited due to the engrafting of Gentiles Christians into the true tree of Israel. So, Paul tells us a little about the Jews situation in relation to the Gentile Christians.
First, in v. 25, Paul mentions a “partial hardening of the Jews.” What does this mean? From the context we looked at over the last few weeks, we understand there is a remnant of the Jews. God always reserves a remnant to himself. There are also Jews who have not yet received Christ, but who will receive Christ because they are God’s elect. Hence, over time, all the Jews whom God predestined to eternal life will be engrafted back into the tree of true Israel. God will continue to do so until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.