No good story would be complete without them.
Green Lantern has the Guardians, Peter Parker has Uncle Ben, Superman has (data from) his Kryptonian father... In a fair amount of superhero mythology, there is an old man, an elder, a narrative character who seems to really know what is going on. They are able to understand under-lying issues and goals needed for the main hero to complete his task.
They are the sensei who the hero climbs the mountain to meet.
Often, in the hero's search for instruction, identity, and meaning, he finds himself pointed in a direction that he never could have found on his own.
Saint Walker is one such hero. With his world on the brink of destruction due to his dying sun, Walker goes to the sole place where hope may be found: The Mountain of the Promised Savior. From this mountain, a man has been prophesied to come and save Walker's planet.
In the journey up the mountain, Walker loses his father and his family. Everything that he has ever held dear had been lost to him. And, his planet may no longer be salvageable. Still, he continues his on his path:
As he reaches the peak of the mountain, Walker screams at God, cursing Him, begging him for a deliverer. His people need help, they need salvation, and a Savior was no where to be seen. The alien tears his book, his beliefs to shreds. How can he trust in an invisible God?
Then, God calls back to him. God answers him. Walker realizes his brokeness. Then, God shows him his own reflection. It was if He said, "You are the one whom I've sent."
Walker rushes back down from the mountains heights. He proclaims his beliefs, he shares his faith and trust in something bigger than himself. He spoke night and day "until someone listened." Eventually the whole world turned to him. They heard his gospel. They understood the scripture. And, they lived it.
Their faith had made the sun well. Instead of reaching its death, the sun grew young again. Just as the hearers of the word had been, the sun was reborn. There was hope that "all will be well." Without this hope, the Saint would realize he is nothing. With this hope, there is even life after death.
Justin Martyr had lived a similar life.
He had been a late disciple of Socrates and Plato (110-165 AD). He searched for instruction, identity, meaning, and guidance in his world. Both, for himself and for those around him.
As he reached his mountain top, knowing the love of wisdom with the best of them, he found it to be empty.
"He tells the professional philosophers [they are] on a throne... how false and hollow is all wisdom that is not meant for all humanity... He exposes the impotency of... philosophy" How good can the knowledge of the philosophers be if it cannot be shared with all of humanity??
"What Plato was feeling after, he [Justin Martyr] found in Jesus of Nazareth."
"He climbed towards Christ."
What he had failed to find in his search for wisdom, he found in the Word of God.
He knew how personal and meaningful the "only true philosophy," Christianity, was. He saw that "after the conflicts and tests of ages, it is the only philosophy that lasts and lives and triumphs..."
It became his mission "to be a star in the West, leading its Wise Men to the cradle of Bethlehem."
He knew that he must proclaim his beliefs, defend his doctrine, and share his trust and faith in someone bigger than himself. He wrote and spoke every day. Growing up a Gentile, he hoped the whole world would turn to him, hear him, understand the Scripture, know the Gospel, and live it.
Their faith would make them well. Knowing sin, the people would hear him and gain salvation. They would be reborn in the hope of the Gospel. Without this hope, the Martyr would realize he is nothing. With this hope, there is even life after death.
This is how those old men, elders... magi, wise guys are born.
It is in this struggle, this experience, this purging of God that they begin to see... not with their own eyes but by faith. They may need a road to Damascus or a mountain-top revelation, but the outcome is still the same. They may see the world as intending their struggle for evil, but God had always intended it for good (Gen. 50:20).
Through these experiences, they become the beacon, the signal, the star proclaiming the truth to all who would hear... They are able to understand under-lying issues and goals needed for the Christian to live their task... to live the Word.
For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
... How are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? ... 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news! ...
Do not be sleeping when those feet come to you.
Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Rm 10).
He is the Savior. The Deliverer. He completes us where we are lacking and finds us when we are lost. We are only alive if we live in Him. He is our Hope and our Trust. Our Redemption.
He works in our lives, He builds us up, He tests us, He strengthens us to witness His work.
He speaks so that we may be both hearers and doers of His Word.
You may one day find yourself on the other side of your struggles, living the life of the person who God has forged you to be, a bearer of good news, a witness and proclaimer of the Gospel... a narrative character.
But, that life may only be lived as a life in Jesus Christ.
Without Him there is no light to shine through the darkness.
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****The quotes about Justin Martyr are from the Introductory Note of the First Apology.