Truth be told, I am not a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Like, at all. I do not say that to seem anti-trendy or contrarian. (Though some of my friends would say otherwise.) I say that because the comic-book movies that the House of Mouse conglomerate churns out never appeal to me. They never have. I was never caught up in the hysteria surrounding each new Marvel release. The Iron Man from 2008, which started this whole thing, was alright. It was certainly entertaining. My wife and I, though, fell fast asleep during the first Captain America. Thor was equally as lifeless and boring. Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 1 was okay — but Vol. 2 was pretty much the worst. The only entry in the entire MCU that is truly enjoyable is, ironically enough, the third Thor movie, Thor: Ragnarok — which is probably because it goes so far against type, against what was expected. But I digress. I don’t think you want to read me rant about my frustrations with the current state of cinema. (Martin Scorsese did that already!)
Interestingly enough, one of the most telling lines ever uttered by a movie villain comes from, perhaps, one of the most forgettable movies, Iron Man 2 (a movie I have never seen). In Iron Man 2, Tony Stark is living larger than ever. After revealing his duel-identity as both the billionaire-playboy-inventor and superhero icon, Tony appears invincible. Enter the bad guy, Ivan Vanko, a.k.a., “Whiplash,” who determines that Tony must suffer judgment for the sins of his father. Ivan’s was somehow wronged by choices Tony’s dad made, therefore, Ivan’s quest for revenge centers on Tony. But his revenge is different. His retributive vitriol isn’t spent on an elaborate scheme to kill Tony. Rather, Ivan attempts to demoralize both Iron Man and his beloved following. His intentions are clear:
If you can make God bleed, people will cease to believe in him.
Ivan’s entire scheme was to make the ‘god’ Iron Man had become to bleed in order to expose his worshiper’s ill-placed faith. His mission wasn’t necessarily to kill Iron Man, but to expose him. To bring him down. To cut through the veneer of the heroic and reveal the coward behind the mask. But what I love about this quote is the fact that, in a roundabout way, it synthesizes everything I believe in the Christian faith.
You see, I am not deterred, nor is my faith shattered, at the sight of a bleeding God. Rather, my faith is fortified by the sight of God spilling his own blood on the ground for me. On that horrid tree, writes Henry Law, “the Heavenly Healer dies himself, that his death may be the death of sin. On it he bleeds, that his blood may drop soundness. On it he suffers wounds, that the wounded may be whole. On it he gives his body to most painful pains, that ease may be his people’s portion. On it he lays down his life, that they may have life.”1 Such is the absurdity of the gospel.
“The story of redemption is written in blood,” writes Thomas Guthrie.2 Heaven’s blood. Divine blood. God’s blood. This is the crux of my faith. This is my creed. This is what intensifies Golgotha’s already gory scene. The crimson stream that flows from Jesus’s veins isn’t merely royal, it’s divine. The blood of the cross that washes sin-stained scoundrels like me whiter than snow is nothing less than the blood of God. I believe in a God who bleeds. And I believe that within that divine-yet-human plasma that co-mingles with Jewish earth lies the remission for every single one of my sins and the sins of all who believe.
Henry Law, Christ Is All: The Gospel of the Pentateuch, Vol. 4 (London: Religious Tract Society, 1867), 56.
Thomas Guthrie, The Parables: Read in the Light of Present Day (London: Alexander Strahan, 1867), 70.