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Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Lion King: Aslan and Jesus

Aslan is the great lion in C. S. Lewis’ Narnia stories. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace says to Edmund “Do you know him – who is Aslan”?
“Well, he knows me” said Edmund.  “He is the great Lion, the son of the Emperor over sea, who saved me and saved Narnia”. 
There’s a key scene in both the book and the film of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe about the great lion Aslan. In it, Mr Beaver says, “Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion”. Mrs Beaver adds, “If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly”.
“Then he isn’t safe”?  said Lucy.
“Safe”, said Mr Beaver, “who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you”.
He is King, he is good but he is not safe. These are three keys concepts about Aslan, the great lion. Goodness is a powerful concept and a powerful way to live but it can also be dangerous.  Not letting wrong or evil win can take you to dangerous places, in life and in relationships, at work, with friends and we’ll come onto that in a moment. But we begin with a different kind of power, the creative power of Aslan which brings the land of Narnia itself into existence.
In The Magician’s Nephew C. S. Lewis tells us how Aslan sings Narnia into existence using only his voice to create and then makes creatures and gives them a commission of stewardship telling them, “I give to you forever this land of Narnia. I give you the woods, the fruits, the rivers…The Dumb Beasts whom I have not chosen are yours also”. Aslan, therefore, has immense creative power and authority over all he has made.
Despite this great power and authority Aslan sacrifices himself for the sake of those he has created. He saves Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy plus all of Narnia by allowing himself to be captured, humiliated and killed.  Aslan agrees to let himself be sacrificed in Edmund's place, the Witch binds him to the Stone Table and kills him there. He puts himself in dangers’ way for a reason as he later explains: "[…] when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead […] Death itself would start working backwards."
This is the amazing thing about Aslan's sacrifice: by taking Edmund's place, Aslan is able to save Edmund, but also to save himself and everyone else. There's a special power he can access by being a willing and innocent victim.
Through Aslan’s sacrifice we see that goodness is a powerful concept and a powerful way to live but that it can also be dangerous because not letting wrong or evil win can take you to dangerous places. You only find out if you are courageous like a lion when life gets difficult – when a decision has to be made, and the right thing to do is the most difficult. 
Another reason why goodness may be dangerous is that to meet Aslan is "to meet someone who, because he has freely created you and wants for you nothing but your good, your flourishing, is free to see you as you are and to reflect that seeing back to you".
In other words, to see yourself as others see you might be discomforting but it will also always be skewed by the distorting lens of their self-interest. To be unmasked as God sees you is painful because purgative, but is also a path to true liberation. It is merciful because without it we are left in a citadel of self-deception, life's energies being sapped and wasted on bolstering self-regard.
We see this most clearly through one of the most vivid scenes in the whole series which comes in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Eustace – the spoiled child of non-smoking teetotal vegetarians: never a good sign in Lewis – is turned into a dragon. He tries to peel off his skin but finds only another set of scales. It takes Aslan to cut his claws in deep and rip it off – a “feeling worse than anything I’ve ever felt”, as Eustace says – for him to be reborn. Aslan can dig deep enough into Eustace’s life - to his very heart - to make him a completely new creation.
In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Aslan tells the children that he is also in their world, but he goes by a different name and once, when a young boy could not figure out what Aslan’s name was in this world, Lewis wrote in response:
“I want you to guess. Has there never been anyone in this world who (1) Arrived at the same time as Father Christmas (2) Said he was the son of the Great Emperor (3) Gave himself up for someone else's fault to be jeered at and killed by wicked people (4) Came to life again (5) Is sometimes spoken of as a Lamb... Don't you really know His name in this world?”
Revelation 5:5 pictures Jesus as a lion king when it says: Stop weeping, behold the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He can open the scroll…”
Like Aslan, Jesus is a creative force. In Colossians we are told that “God created the whole universe through him and for him.Like Aslan, Jesus sacrifices himself for others. He has the courage of a lion. In Gethsemane, knowing he is soon to die, he prays, “Father let this cup pass from me” but then his courage says, “But not my will but yours be done”. Finally, like Aslan with Eustace, Jesus is the light which has come into the world to show up our evil deeds enabling us to repent and be transformed.
The things Aslan does and says in the Narnia stories are, as Lewis said, simply the things Jesus really did and said but the comparison of Jesus with Aslan brings out the sense “that something really quite fierce [or strong and powerful] has taken hold of people” when they turn to God.” As Hebrews 10. 31 says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” As Mr Beaver said of Aslan, Jesus isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.
This sermon uses material from:;;; and Stroud, ‘Chronicles of Narnia’.


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