Finding God in Narnia part 1
The Lion of Judah in Narnia
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
December 18, 2005

 

Two weeks ago, I read the book. Last week, I saw the movie. This week, I begin a series of messages based on that book and that movie. So let me ask you, how many of you have either read the book or seen the movie of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe?

PARTICIPATION

Okay, well, for those of you who have read the book, let me tell you that I think you’d enjoy the movie. My philosophy has always been, “Why read the book and ruin a good movie.” But I took the chance this time, and I can tell you that the movie is very faithful to the book. Oh, there are a few changes here and there, and there are some quotes that are pivotal in the book which are reworded or replaced in the movie, but by and large it is very faithful to the book written by Clive Staples Lewis over 55 years ago.

We know Clive Staples Lewis better today as C.S. Lewis. But he wasn’t exactly fond of his name. Remember how in the Indiana Jones movies, we find out that “Indiana” was actually the name of the dog? Well, same thing here. As a boy, C.S. Lewis had a dog named Jacksie that was run over by one of the first cars in Ireland, so he decided that he would adopt the name Jacksie for himself, and it was later shortened to Jack. And at the time when Jack wrote this book, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, he was in his 50s, a single man with no children. He was a quiet-living professor at Oxford, a writer, and a good friend of J.R.R. Tolkien, of Lord of the Rings fame. In fact, Tolkien played a crucial role in C.S. Lewis examining the claims of Christ, concluding that they were true, and becoming a Christian.

But before that time, Lewis was an adamant atheist. He had rejected Christianity early on, and later said that he had been “very angry with God for not existing.” He was a man committed to reason and logic, and he thought faith couldn’t mix with those. And I love that about Lewis. He really did have a beautiful mind, and it was precisely because of his skills at logic and debate that he eventually became a Christian. After re-examining the claims of Christ and subjecting them to all sorts of scrutiny, he said, “I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed.” He didn’t necessarily want to become a Christian… in fact, He resisted the very possibility because it would mean that he would have to give up control of his life to God. He even described himself as “the most reluctant convert of all time.” But when confronted with the facts, he couldn’t hold out any longer.

Let me recommend two of his books to you… first, if you want to learn more about his life and his conversion, read the book “Surprised By Joy.” And if you want to experience his logical approach to Christianity, read what may be his most notable book, “Mere Christianity.”

But it’s because of another book in a series of books that we’re talking about him today. The Chronicles of Narnia is a seven-volume set of books, still popular today, decades after they were first written. The first book that he wrote, which is usually regarded to be the second book in the series, is what you can now see in the theatre… The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Now, this book is not exactly meant to be a retelling of the Gospel story, but there’s no denying that the Christian faith of C.S. Lewis permeates throughout the pages. There are the grand themes of betrayal, death, resurrection, and redemption. There’s the trap of temptation. There’s the binding power or evil. There’s the hope of a Saviour. There are characters like Aslan, who is the image of Jesus, and like the White Witch, who is the Narnian equivalent of the devil. There’s even a reference to the Emperor beyond the sea, who would be God the Father.

So this morning, I’m going to tell you some of the story. I don’t want to ruin it for you if you’re planning on going to the movie, so I won’t get to the climax today. And I won’t get into a lot of the details. But I will tell you the setting, and some of the early developments in the story. Okay?

The story takes place in 1940 during World War II. London is being bombed in the air raids, so four children are sent by their mother out of the city to an old, mysterious house in the countryside where they should be safe. Peter is the oldest at 14, next is Susan at 12, Edmund is 10, and Lucy is 8.

Now, this house that they go is massive, with lots of rooms to explore, which is exactly what the children do one rainy day. Actually, in the movie, they’re playing hide-and-seek, and young Lucy decides to hide in this one room that is pretty much empty… except for a wardrobe. Now, a wardrobe is basically a cabinet used to hang up clothes, so she opens the door and steps inside. Of course, the best place to hide would be right at the back of the wardrobe, so she moves back through the clothes, and back, and back, and back... until she discovers that the clothes she is pushing aside aren’t clothes at all… they’re trees! And she is no longer in the wardrobe… she is in a snow covered forest!

As the story progresses, we learn that she has entered the land of Narnia… and eventually all the children enter Narnia. Now, in Narnia, there are all sorts of talking animals and dwarfs and giants and other creatures. It seems the only thing there aren’t, are humans. There are no sons of Adam or daughters of Eve there. Except for these four children. And they quickly discover that they have entered Narnia at a crucial time.

You see, in Narnia it is always winter, but never Christmas. We’ll actually get more into that next week, but what you need to understand this morning is that it’s a very bleak place. And the reason for that is that it is under a curse. The White Witch Jadis has been ruling the land for 100 years, and has kept all of Narnia under her thumb with her curse of winter. And any who dare oppose her, or anger her in any way, or sometimes just on a whim, she turns them into stone statues.

So this is the world that the four siblings enter. And shortly after their arrival, they encounter a talking beaver, appropriately named, Mr. Beaver. Mr. Beaver invites them to his home for supper with Mrs. Beaver, and it’s there that they children learn some very important information.

They find out that they are part of an old prophecy which states that four human children – two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve – would sit on the four thrones at the beautiful castle of Cair Paravel, signaling the end of the reign of the White Witch. And they would rule Narnia. But the key is this: they would not do it on their own, because as Mr. Beaver tells them… “Aslan is on the move.” Let me read what C.S. Lewis wrote about the first time the children heard that name…

“And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something that you don’t understand but in the dream it feels is if it has some enormous meaning - either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.”
~ TLWW, p. 67-68

And when they got the chance to ask more, they asked, “who is Aslan?... Is he a man?”

“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh!” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”


This is the King. Certainly not safe, but most certainly good. And when he arrives, he will dispel the winter and bring the spring. He will break the Witch’s curse and bring new life.

Now, why a lion? Well, of all the beasts in the animal kingdom, none has captured as grand a place in most people’s imagination as the lion. Even the Bible uses the lion to portray very powerful images. In various verses, the Bible talks about lions as being strong, and courageous, and ferocious, and stealthy.
[Judges 14:18 (NLT) - What is stronger than a lion?
2 Samuel 17:10 (NIV) - …the bravest soldier, whose heart is like the heart of a lion…
Numbers 24:9 (NLT) - Like a lion, Israel crouches and lies down; like a lioness, who dares to arouse her?
Lamentations 3:10 (CEV) - “God was like a bear or a lion waiting in ambush for me…”]

Gene Veith wrote a book called The Soul of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. And in that book, he says this about lions…

“Lions … are also awe-inspiring. Their strength, their dignity, their ferocity fill us with wonder and admiration. These qualities are ‘kingly.’ The animal itself evokes feelings that make it a worthy symbol for authority and majesty.”
~ Gene Veith, The Soul of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, p. 71

But, make no mistake, lions are not safe. Aslan is not a tame lion! He isn’t safe, but he’s good.

Now, remember what I said earlier? Aslan is the image of Jesus in Narnia. The Bible itself uses the lion as a symbol for Christ.

Revelation 5:5 (NLT)
“Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has conquered.”

That was a direct reference to Jesus, and described Him as a lion. And C.S. Lewis uses the same animal to show us who Jesus is. So let’s talk about that. There are five characteristics of Jesus that we can see in The Chronicles of Narnia. We’re going to spend some time on the first couple, and then go through the rest rather quickly. The first is…

 

How Aslan Represents Jesus:

1. His expected coming is cause for HOPE.


If there’s going to be one enduring quote from the book or from the movie… one that people will immediately recognize… it’s this…

“Aslan is on the move.”
~ Mr. Beaver, in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Those are the five words that struck me the most. That simple sentence oozes of hope. In the midst of a 100 year winter… to this land where it is always winter and never Christmas… the message that “Aslan is on the move” is a statement of hope that things will not always remain the way that they are. Aslan is on the move, and when he arrives, all will be set right.

The last book of the Old Testament is the book of the prophet Malachi. And then there was nothing. For all we know, the nation of Israel endured 400 years of spiritual winter with no communication from God. But there was a message that burned hot in many hearts… a message that brought hope… a message that inspired: The Messiah is coming! And as the animals in Narnia had prophecy about the coming of Aslan, we also had prophecy about the coming of Jesus, the Messiah…

Isaiah 9:6 (Msg)
For a child has been born--for us! the gift of a son--for us! He’ll take over the running of the world. His names will be: Amazing Counselor, Strong God, Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness.

And a prophecy which Jim read earlier comes right out of the Old Testament book of Micah…

Micah 5:2 (NLT)
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village in Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.

You see, when we celebrate Christmas, we celebrate not only the actual arrival of Jesus, we celebrate His coming and everything involved in the process. We commemorate the long and hopeful anticipation that preceded his birth. That’s why there’s an entire Advent season and not just a single day. That anticipation is what kept the people of Israel going through a long spiritual winter. And even today, we as believers in this age live with the hope of our Savior’s second coming… His second advent. Shortly before his crucifixion, Jesus promised His followers…

John 14:2-3 (NLT)
“There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.”

This is the promise that we have. This is the promise that keeps us going today. This is the anticipated return of Jesus. This is the hope that we have. And it has a vital bearing on every believer today.

Titus 2:13 (CEV)
We are filled with hope, as we wait for the glorious return of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 6:19 (CEV)
This hope is like a firm and steady anchor for our souls. In fact, hope reaches behind the curtain and into the most holy place.

 

2. He embodies a terrible GOODNESS

“Safe? …Who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
~ Mr. Beaver, LWW, pp. 79-80

Imagine standing face to face with a full grown lion. Not the Hakuna Matata Simba kind of lion – but a full grown, untamed lion. How would you feel? I would expect there would be a terror in your heart, unless you were a complete idiot. How could something so terrible also be good? Listen to what Lewis wrote…

“People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time. If the children had ever thought so, they were cured of it now. For when they tried to look at Aslan’s face they just caught a glimpse of the golden mane and the great, royal, solemn, overwhelming eyes; and then they found they couldn’t look at him and went all trembly.”
~ LWW, p. 126

That’s an interesting reaction. And it’s the same sort of reaction that people have when they are in the presence of God. Many people have strange ideas about what it would be like to stand before God. But the Bible is consistent in describing this experience.

Exodus 3:6 (CEV)
Moses was afraid to look at God, and so he hid his face.

Job 23:14-16 (NLT)
“So He [God] will do for me all He has planned. He controls my destiny. No wonder I am so terrified in His presence. When I think of it, terror grips me. God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me.”

In the New Testament, we read about a time that the disciples were with Jesus out on Lake Galilee. The disciples were afraid for their lives, but we’re told…

Mark 4:39-41 (CEV)
Jesus got up and ordered the wind and the waves to be quiet. The wind stopped, and everything was calm.
Jesus asked his disciples, “Why were you afraid? Don’t you have any faith?”
Now they were more afraid than ever and said to each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

When Peter, James and John were with Jesus at the Transfiguration in Matthew 17, they caught a glimpse of the glory of Jesus, and heard a voice from Heaven tell them…

Matthew 17:5-6 (NLT)
“This is my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with him. Listen to him.” The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground.

This was the consistent response of those who stood before God the Father or when the Godhead of Jesus was most clearly seen.

Now, in the book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis does a terrific job of portraying Aslan as both terrible and good. I’m not sure the movie quite caught that. It kind of lost that sense of terrible goodness in Aslan.

And many people today have lost this sense about God. We tend to go to extremes in describing God. At times, we emphasize that He is the all-powerful God who demands obedience and righteousness and justice. And at other times, we emphasize His love and compassion and forgiveness. And it’s almost as if we’re describing two different Gods. We often falter in understanding that God is a God of love and of justice at the same time. Gene Veith describes it this way…

“Today we have domesticated God. People tend to imagine him as a kindly old man with a white beard… ‘The God that I believe in,’ they say, ‘would never punish anyone.’ They assume that because God is benevolent and loving, he must be nice… Jesus, in particular, has been sentimentalized. ‘Gentle, meek and mild’ has become a stereotype… He has come to be thought of as so soft and benign that, to many people, he has become non-threatening, someone they can mould to their own desires… It is true that Jesus is gentle, meek and mild; but he is also the man who threw out the money-changers, who castigated the Pharisees as whitewashed tombs, who will gird on his sword and come again in glory to overthrow the Antichrist and the Beast and to judge the living and the dead.”
~ Gene Veith, p. 73-74

And this sentence is in your notes…

“The point is that God’s holiness means that he is dangerous. He is not safe. But his holiness also means that he is good. He is, indeed, loving; but he changes lives.”
~ Gene Veith, The Soul of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, p. 75

And it is because of God’s holiness that he will never leave us the same as he finds us!

 

3. His NAME is powerful

In Narnia, just the mention of Aslan’s name has an impact. Every time his name is mentioned, the characters are either filled with hope like the children are, or with terror like the White Witch is.

And the very name of Jesus is powerful, too. Nobody is neutral when it comes to the name of Jesus. Think about it… you can go just about anywhere and talk about Buddha or Mohammed or Allah. But mention the name of Jesus Christ, and emotions rise to the top. It’s why Christmas trees are becoming Holiday trees, and why traditional carols are being rewritten to accommodate those who are offended. Because the name of Jesus is powerful… in a good way for some, in a terrible way for others.

The name of Jesus has a pervasive power and authority about it.

Mark 9:38 (NLT)
John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw a man using your name to cast out demons…”

Acts 4:12 (CEV)
“Only Jesus has the power to save! His name is the only one in all the world that can save anyone.”

Paul tells us that after Jesus gave up His God-hood and became a man and died for you and for me, that God the Father…

Philippians 2:9-11 (NLT)
God raised Him up to the heights of Heaven and gave Him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The name of Jesus is powerful. The name of Jesus has no equal. The name of Jesus alone is worthy of all honour and all glory and all praise.

 

4. His PRESENCE brings change

When you see the movie or read the book you will see the changes that come over Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy as their lives are touched by Aslan. You will see the coming of Spring that shows the beginnings of change in Narnia… because Aslan is on the move.

Jesus brings real change to our lives as well. You see, it is not Jesus’ desire to simply save us and then leave us the same. Whatever Jesus touches, changes. He loves us just the way we are, but He loves us too much to leave us that way.

1 John 3:8 (NLT)
Anyone who keeps on sinning belongs to the devil. He has sinned from the beginning, but the Son of God came to destroy all that he has done.

Jesus wants to destroy the devil’s work in your life! He wants to change you from the inside out. Aslan does this with Edmund in the story (we’ll talk about that another week), and Jesus does that with each of us who welcomes His presence into our lives.

You know, throughout the Bible there are several things and locations that are declared holy. For example, think about Moses when God spoke to him from the burning bush. What did God tell him to do? He told him to remove his shoes because he was standing on holy ground. What made the ground holy? Was there anything really different or special about it? On it’s own, no. What made it special was the presence of God. The presence of God is what made it holy.

The presence of God is also what makes you Holy. Nothing you do makes you Holy; the Presence makes you Holy. The changes brought on because of that presence makes you Holy.

Hebrews 12:10-11 (NLT)
But God’s discipline is always right and good for us because it means we will share in His holiness.

Underline “His holiness.” It’s not our holiness; it’s His holiness. We are changed… we are made holy… by His presence.

 

And fifth, when it comes to Aslan and when it comes to Jesus, we see that…

5. He must do the SAVING

In the story, Lucy makes a friend named Mr. Tumnus. Mr. Tumnus helps her out and protects her from the White Witch, and then he is punished by the White Witch and turned to stone. Also, Edmund betrays his brother and sisters, sides with the White Witch, and finds himself under her control. The children obviously want to help Edmund and Mr. Tomnus any way they can, but Mr. Beaver tells them that they need to look to Aslan, because he must do the saving. From the book…

Aslan?” said Mr Beaver. “Why, don’t you know? He’s the King. He’s the Lord of the whole wood, but not often here, you understand. Never in my time or my father’s time. But the word has reached us that he has come back. He is in Narnia at this moment. He’ll settle the White Queen all right. It is he, not you, who will save Mr Tumnus.”

You know, the Bible teaches that we are all born into captivity. We are all under the control of the evil one… Satan, the prince of this world. Our sinfulness has put us there, and there’s nothing we can do about it. We can try to be good people, but there’s no way we can be good enough to measure up to God’s standards. Nothing you could ever do can save you. Only when your faith is placed in Jesus and not in yourself can you be saved. In fact, the very name Jesus means “The Lord Saves.” And when Joseph was told by the angel that Mary was pregnant, he was told…

Matthew 1:21 (NLT)
“And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

And time and time again we’re told that it is Jesus and Jesus alone who can save us…

Acts 16:31 (NLT)
“Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved…”

Romans 10:9 (NLT)
For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

1 Timothy 1:15 (NLT)
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--and I was the worst of them all.

Now, maybe you’re here this morning and you’ve tried to do the saving yourself. You need to understand, it’s not about you. It’s not about how good you can be, it’s not about how often you attend church, it’s not about being nice to your neighbour. Those things are important, but they’re not going to save you. The only thing that can save you from your sinfulness… the only thing that can save you from the penalty of death that we all deserve because we all fall short of God’s standard… is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s His presence in our lives that makes the difference.

So if you’re here and you’ve never place your faith in Him but you’d like to do that this morning, I’m here to tell you, you can. And He will bring to your life peace, and joy, and love, and forgiveness, and purpose, and hope for today and tomorrow.

Let’s pray together. Just where you’re at, in the quietness of your heart, if you’d like to experience His presence and begin this relationship with Jesus today… then you can pray something like this…

Jesus, thank you for coming. Thank you for the hope I can have because you came on that first Christmas. Thank you for offering to me forgiveness and a new life. And I want to take you up on that offer this morning. I want to live for you from this moment on. Teach me and lead me I pray.

Now for all of us, perhaps you’d like to pray something like this…

Thank you, Jesus, that you came the first time and that you’re coming again. Thank you for the hope that I can have because you have promised me a future with you. Remind me of that whenever I experience a deep winter of the soul. I trust you, and I choose to follow you and obey you for all the days of my life.

 

 

 

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