After Sunday … Yesterday, I preached the first in our October Sermon Series – Screenings: Post-Production Pastoral Reflections. My movie/story/character of choice was Sherlock Holmes. I asked three questions:
- What is it that gives a story “staying power”?
- Are there spiritual insinuations and innuendos in the story?
- Is there anything explicitly Christian that can be gleaned from the story?
When it comes to Sherlock Holmes, I suggested this story – now well over 100 years old – deals with the tension between good and evil – heroes and villains. That’s what gives it staying power. The spiritual innuendo comes with Holmes frequently telling those around him: You see, but you don’t OBSERVE! This is true for what is around is; it is also true for what is within us. And the “explicitly Christian” component is found in the nature of mystery. Holmes solves mysteries through his ability to observe. Jesus tells us that there are mysteries that require not only keen observation, but also a revelation – a third party is involved that enables us to span the gap between ourselves and the mystery itself.
One thing we didn’t touch upon – Resurrection. Sherlock Holmes is killed off by Arthur Conan Doyle in the story The Final Problem. It is a classic fight to the end between Holmes and his arch-enemy, James Moriarty. The story leaves us with the conclusion that both have fallen to their death at Reichenbach Falls. Holmes has gone down in a blaze of glory, taking with him evil-incarnate – a life sacrificed for the good of all. But then, believing himself now to be rid of Sherlock Holmes thus enabling Conan Doyle to turn to more serious literary efforts, the crowd would have none of it. Sherlock Holmes fans clamored to have their hero returned to them. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle capitulated to their demands, and Sherlock Holmes lived to see other days and solve many more mysteries.
Are death and resurrection simply literary devices used by Christians to spin a good yarn? Some have attempted to discredit the resurrection of Jesus by suggesting that he never truly died. We see evidence of this in the gospels themselves. The Gospel of Matthew tells us of guards being posted at the tomb of Jesus to insure that his body was not stolen (Matthew 27:62-66). The difference between the fans of Sherlock Holmes and the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth is that, while one demanded the rising of their hero, the other was shocked that their Rabbi lived. The Christian Testament tells us that Jesus had to appear over and over again in order to convince them that death had not completely claimed him.
The resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is one of the world’s greatest mysteries. It’s not one that can be solved by keenly observing all the clues. It’s one that can be experienced only if we allow for the possibility of a “Third Party” – some reality beyond our comprehension that paves the way for what is, should it actually be true, the most important mystery of all.