One of the things I enjoy most about films is that they enable you to taste of an experience you are never likely to have in full, whether that be catching a notorious serial killer, overcoming tragedy, or saving the world from zombies.
At least one of the ways I measure the quality of a film is the degree to which it succeeds in drawing me into its narrative. And it’s because I enjoy being drawn into a film’s plot development that I hate spoilers. Knowing the ending from the beginning, or having more than a hunch about some crucial turn in the story ruins the forward momentum of the experience. ‘Spoilers’ is right!
For instance, I was told about the twist ending in Sixth Sense before having the opportunity to discover it for myself. And that was, to put it mildly, disappointing…
As Christians, we believe that we’re part of the biblical story. It’s not just something we read for entertainment. We know that we have been adopted into this narrative in ways that can only be radically life-changing.
But reading the Bible is different to watching a film for a couple of important reasons.
First, we are living in the final chapter of the biblical story. So we’re looking back, not forward, to get a sense of where we’re at and what role we play in God’s mega-plan.
Second, related to the first point, most of us have become Christians from hearing about Jesus. In other words, we haven’t heard the biblical story in chronological order. Only after hearing about Jesus’ death for us do we go back and try to make sense of Old Testament laws and Israel’s covenant with God and so on.
Another way of putting it is that we begin with the spoiler—Jesus’ life, death and resurrection—and then we explore the earlier part of the narrative, looking through a Messianic lens. And in some ways, that’s just as well. Because without a Messianic lens, some parts of the Bible are hard to read.
In many ways, we’re like the disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24, trying to put it all together. As they made their journey, Jesus turned up to walk beside them. And beginning with Moses (i.e. the Pentateuch) and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what the Scriptures say about him (Lk 24.27). Man, I’d love to have been a pesky fly on that long walk!
On the road to Emmaus, Jesus retells the biblical story and presents himself as the surprise ending. More than that, after telling his disciples the biblical story with his own death and resurrection as its recent climax, Jesus adds, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!’ (v 25)
In other words, you disciples should have seen this coming. The prophets spoke about it in ancient times, and Jesus had spoken about it for the past three years. ‘Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ (v 26)
The crucifixion was necessary. That’s the way God works.
Jesus defeated sin and death though self-emptying love rather than through self-actualising power.
That’s the spoiler that makes sense of history. And not just world history, but your own life history, too. As Jesus said, ‘unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’ (John 12.24) Or as one of his disciples, C.S. Lewis, put it, ‘Die before you die, there is no chance after.’