The Dark Knight: A Tale of Two Stories

1184851.jpgWhile watching The Dark Knight with my son and wife, I found myself, at one point, saying aloud: “That’s just like A Tale of Two Cities!” Stefan had been reading the novel for school and I had reread it with him. And, as I finished Tim Keller’s The Reason for God, I found him noting that the climactic substitution in A Tale of Two Cities was just like Jesus’ action on our behalf. So maybe The Dark Knight proclaims the Good News as a twenty-first century metaphor, as A Tale of Two Cities did in a nineteenth century idiom.

The Dark Knight has been enormously popular – half a billion dollars in box office receipts alone. Stories of rescue are clearly mankind’s favorite. And The Dark Knight adds to the tale what Tim Keller calls The Great Reversal, the climactic action of Christ’s establishment of the Kingdom of God amid the Present Evil Age.

Mr. Keller explains The Great Reversal: “God, in the place of ultimate power, reverses places with the marginalized, the poor, and the oppressed.”(196) He does so to defeat the Present Evil Age’s worship of power, might, and status.

By substituting Himself for us, by taking the punishment in our place, Christ upheld the need for justice, all the while loving us. Jesus was God sacrificing himself as a substitute for us – the innocent taking the consequences for the guilty. Like Sidney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities.

And like Bruce Wayne, Batman, in The Dark Knight.

Faced with the unspeakable horrors inflicted by The Joker – the city’s present incarnation of the Enemy, newly appointed district attorney Harvey Dent snaps and goes on a killing spree in the name of justice. In the process, Mr. Dent literally and figuratively becomes another person – Two-Face. Thus the Enemy succeeds in turning the once-crusading-for-justice D.A. into everything he had previously hated.

INSPECTOR GORDON concludes:

“The Joker won…Harvey’s prosecution, everything he fought for, everything Rachel died for. Undone. Whatever chance Gotham had of fixing itself… whatever chance you [Batman] gave us of fixing our city… dies with Harvey’s reputation. We bet it all on him. The Joker took the best of us and tore him down. People will lose all hope.

BATMAN

No. They won’t. They can never know what he did… No. But the Joker cannot win… Gotham needs its true hero.

Gently, he turns Dent’s head so the good side of his face is up.

GORDON

You? You can’t-

BATMAN

Yes, I can.

Batman stands. Faces Gordon…

I’m whatever Gotham needs me to be.

CUT TO: GORDON STANDING AT A PODIUM AT DENT’S FUNERAL.
BEHIND HIM IS A LARGE PHOTOGRAPH OF DENT SMILING.

GORDON

…a hero. Not the hero we deserved the hero we needed. Nothing less than a knight. Shining…

GORDON’S VOICE OVER

They’ll hunt you.

BATMAN’S VOICE OVER

You’ll hunt me. You’ll condemn me, set the dogs on me…because it’s what needs to happen.

JAMES looks at INSPECTOR GORDON, his father, confused.

JAMES

He didn’t do anything wrong!…Why, dad? Why?!

GORDON

because he can take it

Like Harvey Dent, people are often pushed to reveal their other face. We, seeking justice, sometimes feel forced to assume the means of the Enemy in behalf of our good ends. When we do, Jesus calls us “hypocrites”, two-faced.

Like Two-Face, we deserve punishment when our actions violate God’s law. Our broken and flawed faces exposed for all to see, we, like Harvey Dent, like the people of Gotham, may begin to lose hope.

But just as the Dark Knight takes the crimes of Harvey Dent to be his own, sparing Harvey his just desserts and the people of Gotham their hope, so Jesus takes our sins to be his own, sparing all who accept his offer their just desserts, and giving mankind hope amid the Evil Age.

When we accept his offer to stand in for us, Jesus takes our head and turns it so the good side of our face is what God sees.

Like the Dark Knight in Gotham, Jesus offers to be whatever we may need him to be. He is our all in all.

Like the citizens of Gotham condemning Batman, the Roman authorities and the citizens of Jerusalem condemned Jesus and choose Barabbas.

The Dark Knight allows it and Jesus allows it because it needs to happen for us, as it did for the people of Gotham.

And He didn’t do anything wrong.

The grace of God.

A free gift to start the new year.

Merry Christmas.

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