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So I watched The Dark Knight Rises.

And it was good. Very good. But it reminded me of a few things (beware, spoilers follow).

Near the beginning, Officer John Blake (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) tries to encourage one of the many orphans of Gotham City. The boy idly draws the Batman logo onto a bench  and asks, “Do you think he’s coming back?” The child refers to Batman, but my mind instantly went elsewhere.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” (John 14:18-19)

Blake himself is an orphan. Even Bruce Wayne’s own father can’t be found in any of the countless buildings that bear his name (I’ll let you connect the analogy there). A world of strays and lost sheep. These He came to redeem.

The Batman does eventually arrive on the scene, in all his diesel-fueled glory, and he soon follows a trail that leads him to the underground headquarters of
the film’s villain, Bane (played by Tom Hardy, of Guy Ritchie fame; quick bit of trivia: apparently Hardy was not given the part of Bane because of his role as a vicious bareknuckle boxer in the film, Bronson, as was believed, but because of his lighthearted character, “Handsome Bob,” in RocknRolla). However, Batman does not arrive at the end of this trail before a seemingly close ally, Catwoman (played by Anne Hathaway), betrays Batman into the inescapable hands of his enemies.

Now who else was famously betrayed by a close friend and led to His death? (Not to mention Ms. Kyle later shares a kiss with the Caped Crusader, but I don’t want to force the connection.)

Batman is soon locked in combat with this archetypal force of evil. It does not take long before it is apparent that our hero cannot match Bane’s strength. After a series of agonizing blows, Batman lays prostrate on the ground. He lunges towards Bane in a final attempt, to which Bane responds, “I wondered which would break first, your soul or your body.” Bane punctuates this final line by lifting the defeated Batman high over his head and slamming him across his knee, breaking his back.

“‘Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” (John 12:31-32, italics mine)

Bane, an intelligent, powerful beast of a human being, having been hardened by a virtual eternity of life within prison, digs a pit in the center of the film’s microcosm and destroys the hope of Gotham.

“Here we may reign secure, and in my choice to reign is worth ambition though
in Hell: better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n. But wherefore let we then
our faithful friends…and call them not to share with us their part in this unhappy mansion…” (Paradise Lost)

In this “unhappy mansion,” Bane surrounds himself with an army of desperate, never-ending criminals, each willing to die in order to “start the fire,” as one member of Bane’s league testifies early in the movie, before allowing himself to die in a plane crash at Bane’s request.

Bruce Wayne awakes in an enormous, gaping pit teeming with criminals, the same ancient prison that Bane ostensibly grew up in. Wayne is greeted by Bane, who celebrates his victory over the protagonist by explaining how he will destroy the people of Gotham, now that their defender has been removed. Bane justifies this course of action by alluding to some grand, necessary purpose for the people of Gotham: that they must be destroyed for their evil.

You see, the evil one is our accuser. St. John tells us in the Revelation, “the accuser of our brothers…accuses them day and night before our God.”

And the accuser would see us destroyed, “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

And Batman seems to have no option but to wait and watch it happen. But there is a way out of this pit. A means of escape. Near the top of the towering pit wall is a ledge. Reaching this ledge requires a leap that no one else has successfully made.

“…the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)

And, doubtless, many inmates of that pit crawled towards the light.

“And he made from one man every nation of mankind…that they should seek God in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him.” (Acts 17:26-27)

Bruce Wayne climbs the pit wall and makes the impossible leap. He pulls himself up, clears the entrance, and stands to his feet. Before beginning his long journey to Gotham (from whatever nondescript desert the pit is located in), Wayne hesitates to drop a rope down to those still trapped. He bridged the unbridgeable gap.

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Hebrews 2:14-15) 

Bane will later ask the penultimate question, “Why did you return? To die with them?” To which Batman responds, “No, to defeat you.”

And Bane is defeated. In a sort of anticlimactic, unbelievable fashion. A single shot fired levels the beast. It is laughable how easily it happens.

“And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.'” (Luke 10:18)

“And I heard a loud voice in heaving, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down…And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…” (Revelation 12:10-11)

It is this testimony that I proclaim to you. Christ is risen. What our culture marvels at unknowingly, the gospel reveals.

“God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” (Acts 2:24)

“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:38-39)