Hunger Games, Gethsemane, and Golgotha

April 5th, 2012

A confession.  Last week I read the Hunger Games.  Yeah, it was written for teenagers.  But I wanted to stay current on my son's pop culture. 

Who really wants to read about teenage survival games taken to deadly extremes?  This seemed repulsive to me.  I figured that a few chapters would be all I needed to rebuke the trilogy book series, ban it from my home, and discourage my son from seeing the movie.    

Instead, I couldn’t put the first book down, and finished it in a single, 24-hour period.  "Might as well see the movie too"… opening day at theatres. 

It's no wonder the books are hot sellers.  They're edge-of-your-seat reads.  Of course, the movie is never as good as the book.  So after the movie, I started the second book – and finished it one day later.   

As a culture, we are fascinated with suspense and emotionally enthralled over battles between good and evil.  We’re wired to see good prevail… and evil meet justice.

Good Friday Games

There's an eerie resemblance between the events in the games and those around the first Good Friday 2,000 years ago.  But instead of teenagers playing for their lives, God’s son was playing for ours.

The night before the games, Jesus gathers with the Good Guys for a meal…we call it the Last Supper.  It's like the final banquet on the eve of the games, before the players are launched into the arena.

In the games, they know it could be their last meal.  It’s a good time to formalize final alliances.  Jesus sensed similar opportunities and used the banquet to set some things straight.   

Surveying his 12 friends at the table, Jesus separates the true allies from the fake ones.   He picks a Good Guy from the group, says a few words, gives him a piece of bread…and sends him on his way.  Good Guy now turns to Bad Guy.

The remaining Good Guys at the table size up what they think Jesus meant by his instructions.  But as is often the case with psychology in the games, they were wrong.  Besides, Jesus always operated on a different level.   

Games Underway in Gethsemane

The Good Friday games begin in a garden…Gethsemane.  During the night watch, Jesus knows Bad Guys are looming.  But the Good Guys are clueless.  None are able to keep watch with Jesus.  And like the sleep-deprived in the games, Jesus is exhausted.

After hours of suspense and sweat-dripping blood, Jesus senses action is imminent.  Sure enough, the Bad Guys are in pursuit.  Good-Guy-Turned-Bad Guy is leading the charge.   

Things get heated quickly.  A traitor’s kiss sets it off.  Swords are drawn.   A Good Guy slices off a Bad Guy's ear - what a strike that must have been.  

Like tokens of mercy in the games, Jesus shows mercy in the garden, too.  He picks up Bad Guy's ear and puts it back in place.  (For those who saw the movie, think of a parachute of healing cream floating into the arena.)

Sadly, mercy is not always returned.  Jesus is arrested, and Bad Guys take Him away.  Good Guys flee in fear.  The alliance disbands.  To stay together would be too dangerous. 

There are no "mockingjays" in the garden to relay messages or torment players.  But there was a particular rooster to remind a Good Guy of his decision to finish out the games alone.  The sound of the crow harasses him.     

Meanwhile, Good-Guy-Turned-Bad-Guy is an emotional wreck.  He regrets breaking rank and says "I want out."  Too late.  The effects of betrayal are too much to bear, and he hurls himself off a cliff. A player has been eliminated.  (If this were the games, a cannon would sound.)

Later, Jesus is being questioned by Bad Guys.  But as one playing in His own league, Jesus thinks at a different level.  His answers fluster the enemy.  Jesus understands that for Him, winning is losing and losing is winning.  So He stays on the path.

Games Move to Golgotha

What follows for Jesus is a flogging…then some blood…then a crown of thorns…more blood.  Then Bad Guys give him a wooden cross to carry up a hill called Golgotha 

A small parachute floats into the arena…someone offers to carry the cross.  But it's not enough…or maybe it is.  It depends on your perspective. 

As they reach the top of the hill, Bad Guys nail the hands and feet of Jesus to the wood beams.  The torture continues.

In the games, family members outside the arena are forced to watch the intense sufferings by their loved ones.  On the hill next to the cross, Jesus' family is watching, too.  In the games, the crowd gambles on the outcome.  As Jesus hung was hung, soldiers cast lots for His clothes. 

Within a few hours, Jesus dies.  To be for sure they pierce His sides…blood and water flows.  Instead of a cannon to signal the end, an earthquake strikes. 

Everyone considers the activities to be over.  Good Guys and Bad Guys go home.  Oddly enough, just as in the games, the spectators resume to their holiday affairs…the Passover.

Every Good Story has a Sequel

In the games, the outcome is controversial.  Not everyone sees it the same way.  “Gamemakers” add their spin seeking to control the reactions.  After Golgotha, Bad Guys try the same thing.  They use a large stone and guards at the tomb to avoid disruptions or confusion.   

But as with any good book worth reading or movie worth watching, strange things happen in the end.  If you've read the trilogy, you became used to this.   

Things are no different after the events at Golgotha that Good Friday afternoon.  Three days later, the tomb was empty.  Jesus was alive.  The events that started in the garden were considered finished at the cross, but they were really just beginning.   

OK…Make it a Trilogy

I won’t spoil the trilogy series for anyone.  But by now you likely know, a rebellion is brewing from the games.  Not everyone accepts the outcome. 

And so it is in the aftermath from Gethsemane and Golgotha 2,000 years ago. Rebellion is still brewing.  Disagreement is rampant over what happened outside Jerusalem that day.   

A final rebellion remains ahead of us.  Revelation tells us about a battle from heaven.  It involves weapons, chariots, horses, bloodshed, fire…all in unprecedented proportions.     

The Whole World Is Watching

Perhaps the critics are right – and our tolerance shows how desensitized we have become. 

But after surveying the first Easter events more fully, I see that maybe we’ve become desensitized to something else…the events that led to the cross.  And the events that remain ahead.  

No matter how much drama, suspense, broken alliances, plot twists and disturbing themes are imbedded into the fictitious games, nothing matches that of the historical events of the past and of the prophecy that remains unfulfilled.  All else is simply child’s play in comparison.

In a weird sort of way, the trilogy series has helped me to appreciate the events surrounding the first Easter, and given me a new way to relate the events to my family.

As the movie sets box office records, clever movie marketers insist “The Whole World is Watching.”  I am struck by the lining of truth in the campaign.   

Ah yes.  It is true.  Jesus has risen.  And there awaits for us a day when He will return in the sky.  And when He does…The whole world will be watching.

Happy Easter.

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