The Lion, The Witch, and Me
The Lion, The Witch, & Me
How a children's book taught me the Gospel and the meaning of Christmas
I ran across a blog post by writer Jon Bloom on the Desiringgod.org website titled “Enter the Dragon-Slayer: How God Took Satan’s Breath Away.” It was a take on the Christmas story from the vantage point not commonly portrayed: Satan’s. First, Bloom gives some context by telling of the drama played out in heaven before our universe was created in which Satan, then a prince of heaven, fostered pride in the deepest recesses of his heart that consequently turned toxic, contaminating his every thought, word, and deed. He tried to elevate himself above God, and the greater he became in his own eyes, the more noxious his pride became. He detested the human race. This disgust led him to enter the Garden of Eden hoping to bring the fate of the first couple (and all of humanity) down to destruction.
We all know what happened in that Garden: The Snake tempts Eve into eating from the only tree that God commanded them NOT to eat from despite the fact that He had given them everything else. He initiated a dialogue that he hopes gets Eve to not only question God's goodness, but to have her wonder if God was withholding more things from her and Adam.
"Did God actually say 'you shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" Satan asked Eve (Gen. 3:1) --- Even his question is a twisting of what was originally said because God told Adam they could eat from every tree, except one. But, like any false teacher, the Serpent twisted God's Word. Where God said they could eat from any tree but one, the Serpent asked if they could not eat from any tree at all.
Eve responded in a way most of us do when we either aren't clear as to what God's Word actually says, or if we want to justify doing the thing we are tempted to do by either downplaying the consequences or by changing the definition of sin to help us feel better.
• Eve said, “We may eat...but God said 'you shall not eat of the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden ...neither shall you touch it..." v.3). God never said they couldn't touch it,
• And she downplayed the consequences ("lest you die." v.3). But what God really said was, "...you shall surely die" (Gen. 2:16).
The Snake responded by mixing in lies among truth (Genesis 3:4-5):
• "You will not surely die" (LIE. Though Adam and Eve did not drop dead immediately after eating the fruit, they were instantly in a state of spiritual death and would eventually die a physical one).
• "your eyes will be opened" (TRUE)
• "And you will be like God" (LIE)
• "Knowing good and evil" (TRUE)
Up to this point, God defined what was good and evil. But by eating the fruit, Adam and Eve staged a rebellion where they decided they wanted to be the ones who would define good and evil for themselves. Look at history and the world around you---what good has it ever done for humanity to have people like Hitler, Mao, or Stalin defining what was good or evil?
Like the Serpent, the false teacher who twists God's Word is dangerous because he/she can make you believe anything if your foundation in Truth (not relative “truth”) is shaky. The false teacher will always rely on you not knowing what God's Word really says. They will sprinkle in lies with the truth, serve it up as if it were whole truth, and you will be none the wiser. Discernment isn't only about being able to know the difference between what's right and wrong, but it means to also know the difference between true and almost true. One of my favorite female Bible teachers, Jen Wilkin, always encourages to read the Bible for oneself, and to engage with the text firsthand. Don't expect to know or comprehend without doing the work of simply reading. Sometimes, even basic comprehension of the text will help you weed out bad sermons from good ones, bad podcasts from good ones, and false teachers and prophets from almost-true ones.
So, back to the text.
Eve looked at the forbidden fruit. Eve desired it. Eve took it. Eve ate it. Then she gave it to her husband and he ate it, too. (Gen. 3:6). Sin is so dangerous that you can fall in its trap just by looking at it. Death, spiritual and physical, had now entered the world. The Snake thought he had won. Before Adam and Eve are banished from the Garden, God turns to the first couple and tells them how their act of rebellion would affect childbearing, their relationship to each other, and man's relationship to the earth. No one is free from consequence.
But, in the midst of this hopeless situation, God declares Hope for mankind.
To the unredeemable serpent God says, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." (Gen. 3:15). This verse points forward to the defeat of the Snake by a future descendant of a woman who will crush his head. The blow to the head is fatal. A blow to the heel is not. The Wounded Victor would suffer while He is crushing the head of the serpent. This verse is labeled the "Protoevangelium”, the first announcement of the Gospel. It is the first Messianic prophecy of Jesus Christ. Every male child Eve bears from this moment forward carries within her a hope that that child would be the one to crush the head of the Snake and eliminate the stronghold of sin, death, and evil forever. She was wrong about Cain because he was evil---he murdered his brother, Abel. 1 John 3:12 says Cain belonged to the evil one, Satan. It wouldn't make sense that the evil one would crush his own head and defeat himself.
Then, Eve bore Abel. But she was wrong about Abel, too. This innocent younger brother would have his life cut too short because Cain murdered him.
By the time Eve gives birth to Seth, she procalimed “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel because Cain killed him.” (Genesis 4:25). “Ahh!” Eve must have thought. “Maybe THIS one is the Snake Crusher if the other two weren't?!” Eve wasn't entirely wrong——the Seed who would crush the Snake would come from Seth's line…but Seth himself would not be the Wounded Victor. See, God had ordained a plan to rescue His people. The rest of the Bible is the story of this Grand Plan Rescue Operation and the consummation of it. Every biblical text points to this future descendant who had been appointed as part of God's sovereign plan since the foundation of the world.
In the previously mentioned blog post, Bloom writes, “…unknown to the [Snake], mysterious decrees had been uttered by the High King in the secret counsel of his will ages before the [Snake] existed, conceived in wisdom unimaginable to a [Snakely] mind.”
I read Bloom’s words and was immediately reminded of C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe” in which a scene in the film adaptation (the dialogue is different in the book) shows the White Witch and Aslan the Lion discussing privately the terms of restitution for Edmund’s betrayal. Edmund (in exchange for a few pieces of Turkish Delight and the "promise" that the Witch would give him a castle next to hers to reign in while he made his older brother his servant) had reported to the White Witch that his brother and two sisters had entered Narnia. It had been prophesied centuries prior that when "Two Sons of Adam and Two Daughters of Eve" entered Narnia, the White Witch's reign would meet its impending doom and all evil would be destroyed along with her. In fear, the Witch used Edmund to attempt to stop this prophecy from happening. After some time and realizing that the Witch was evil, Edmund repented and reconciled back with his siblings. But despite his repentance, his act of rebellion against Narnia and Aslan brought with it consequences that required a resolution. And Edmund had to pay the price for his treachery.
So, the White Witch requests to hold a council with Aslan. In front of all present, the White Witch haughtily says, “You have a traitor in your midst, Aslan.”
Aslan despondently replies, “His offense was not against you.”
The White Witch, with the vilest, foulest joy of evil in her eyes says, “Have you forgotten the laws on which Narnia was built?” The Law she appealed to mandated that an offense such as Edmund's must be appeased by the shedding of the offender's blood. It was the only form of payment that was sufficient.
The Witch could hardly contain her excitement when Aslan offered His own Blood in place of Edmund's. She reveled in the thought of Aslan, dead. What she didn't know was that Aslan wouldn't stay dead.
So, Aslan, in response, roars mightily and the Witch instinctively flinches and cowers under his apparent Authority.
“DO NOT CITE THE DEEP MAGIC TO ME, WITCH. I WAS THERE WHEN IT WAS WRITTEN.”
C.S. Lewis writes:
“Though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a Magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead…Death itself would start working backward.”
Aslan resurrects, then defeats the White Witch.
As a child reading "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe", I hated and resented Edmund. I wanted him to die instead because he deserved it! But, as an adult, I find myself weeping from a place of gratitude that God-Incarnate would take my place instead. The Savior and Redeemer of the world would have to willingly give his life in place of those who deserved the just wrath of God. Jesus did that for us like Aslan did for Edmund. We are the Edmunds of this story.
Back to our first couple.
Adam and Eve committ a treachery. They are banished from the Garden. God was well within His right to annihilate them right then and there, and it would have been completely just for Him to do so. God was also within His right to banish them, naked, to endure more shame. Rather, in His grace, He kindly clothed them with garments of skin before he cast them out of His presence (Gen 3:21). An innocent animal had to die in order for its skin to be used as a garment. God had provided the first sacrifice. He would also provide the Last and Final One.
C.S Lewis had a beautiful way of explaining deep theological truths to children. Even as young child, I still vividly remember the tingling in my chest every time Aslan showed up in the story. I didn’t know why. I just did. As I grew older and started reading the Bible for myself I began to understand as I felt the same tingle anytime I read of a Christ-type in the Old Testament and when Jesus Himself walked on the stage of Redemptive History in the New. Unbeknownst to me, reading Narnia introduced me to the Gospel.
The Christmas Story is often depicted as a peaceful time mostly seen during church productions and low-budget television adaptations. In reality, the occasion was stained with scandal and much violence: the Savior of the world was conceived in the womb of an unwed, teenage girl---a situation punishable by death by stoning had her betrothed decided to divorce her and shame her publicly to keep his own reputation in tact. Instead, because Joseph was a just man and unwilling to put Mary to shame, he heeded the angel who appeared to him in a dream telling him that the Son Mary was carrying was conceived of the Holy Spirit and not by man (Matt. 1:20). So Joseph took Mary as his wife and essentially adopted The Deliverer that all of Israel had waited centuries for.
Additionally, it was also marked by the genocide of children: After the visit of the Wise Men from the East, the paranoid puppet-King at the time, Herod, had decreed a state-sponsored infanticide after being told that the "King of the Jews" had been born in Bethlehem. He wanted no rival, so he demanded all male children in Bethlehem and the surrounding region, dead (Matt. 16-18). Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt with Baby Jesus to avoid the state-sponsored execution (Matt. 2:13-15). The "silence" of that night was broken by the blood-curdling screams of Hebrew baby boys age 2 and under being slaughtered and assassinated (Matt 2:16). It was by no means a silent night. It was not calm, and it was not bright. The grief of the mothers and fathers compounded by the deathly cries of their infants and toddlers exponentially pronounced the wailing heard that night. It was a legal genocide of innocent babies. It was a dark time.
But, this Christmas, we remember the Great Light that pierced that darkness, and the reason why we celebrate: the Savior of the world came to earth, veiled His glory in human flesh as a helpless baby with the purpose of dying a criminal's death at the age of 33 as payment for the penalty of sin that ought to have been paid by you and me. This is why for the Christian, Christmas is Merry.
This Savior has many names: Jesus, Yeshua, The Last & Final Sacrifice, The Word, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, The Sacrificial Lamb of God, The Lion of Judah, amongst a host of many others befitting a King. My 9-year-old and I refer to Him as The Snake-Crusher. He first came as a Baby to grow up so he could die in our place, and whether you believe it or not, He is coming back again on a day in an hour we do not know, to finally set things right, and to take His rightful place as King. And when He comes, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord---and we will confess this in one of two ways: either joyfully that our Savior has come, or with fear and dread that the Judge has arrived with our sentence.
For the Christian, Christmas not only celebrates His first coming, but it anticipates His Second Coming. So, we say, come Lord Jesus, come.