“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Zombies are hot right now. Well, technically they’re cold since they’re just reanimated dead bodies – and technically, fire is one of the ways you can kill them – but at a cultural level, they’re really popular. Case in point: There’s a decent chance the next Marvel movie, Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, is going to feature Marvel zombies at some point. When something makes it into a Marvel movie these days, you know it’s popular. They have become a bit of a cultural barometer. Honestly, I could take or leave zombies (unless they’re chasing me in which case I could definitely leave them). They’ve never captured my interests the way other monster movies have. But there is something about them worth thinking about this morning. Paul points us to what this is here as he moves forward in Ephesians 2.
Generally speaking, zombies come from two different sources: magic and science. On the magic side of things, they are dead bodies mystically reanimated to serve the interests of whatever sorcerer or sorcerous has cast the spell. On the science side of things, some dummy in a lab is trying to unlock the secrets of cellular regeneration, accidentally creates a virus that reanimates dead flesh, but it never manages to reanimate brain cells, and instead turns living people into mindless, flesh-eating monsters. Modern zombie stories tend to fall more on the science side of things than the mystical side. The reason for this is that there are more entertaining story possibilities available to the writers if the zombie “virus” can be spread through zombie saliva. The exception to this is the Marvel Zombie episode from the What If? series this summer. In that case, Janet Van Dyne returned from the quantum zone with some kind of zombie infection. She bit Hank Pym – Ant Man – and the rest was history.
I suspect you know what zombies are. Zombies are simply dead people walking around as if they are alive. Not only that, but they are always driven by an unending hunger for live human flesh. The explanation for this hunger varies, but when it is offered, the reason is often some version of their seeking from live people what they lack in themselves. In other words, in their longing to be fully alive again, they consume us in some sort of twisted zombie hope (do zombies hope?) to have what we do. We couldn’t be so lucky as to have zombies that feed on garbage or onion grass or something else that would be generally convenient. I guess they wouldn’t really be considered monsters, though, unless they posed some kind of a meaningful threat to us. And eating us seems like a pretty meaningful threat.
The reason zombies are so scary though, is not merely the physical threat they pose. It is because they are so inherently unnatural. Dead things are supposed to stay dead. The idea of their not doing so is unnerving to us. I read about a woman who had “died” of a heart attack, but at her open casket funeral service, she suddenly revived and started screaming as she realized where she was. She only wound up living a short while longer, but I’ll bet her story is going to be told in that community for a long time.
Yesterday, as we began our little journey through Paul’s explanation of the Gospel in Ephesians 2:1-10, we talked about the fact that apart from Christ, we are dead in our sins. It’s not that we are simply broken (although we are). Neither are we just sick (which is nonetheless true). When we are separated from Christ and wrapped in our sin, we are dead. Perhaps not physically dead, but we are spiritually dead and eventually our bodies will catch up if we don’t do something about it. That’s the hard news of the Gospel. We can’t accept the salvation of Christ until we are ready and willing to acknowledge our need for saving. You can’t fix dead on your own.
But here is where the incredibly good news of the Gospel begins to kick in. God, who is rich in mercy and driven by His great love for us, offers us a way out of the death of sin. He makes us alive with and in Christ. With his words here, Paul endeavors to make sure we understand the dramatic nature of this truth. God makes us alive with Christ even though we were dead. The miracle of the Gospel is not simply that God reanimates our spirits. We are resurrected. We share in Christ’s resurrection. We are fully alive again. This transformation is as total as it sounds like it should be. Whereas we were once consumed by death, now we can be suffused by life. No death remains. Its power is broken entirely. Yes, our physical bodies may still die, but God will one day give us new bodies that will be permanent; as permanent as our spirits. All of this comes because of His great love for us.
Thinking about that, there is actually one zombie movie I really enjoyed. This was the 2013 zombie love story, Warm Bodies. The movie begins in a world where the zombie apocalypse has already happened. Human survivors are doing their best to cling to the difficult life they are facing in this new and dangerous world. The focus of the first part of the movie, though, is the zombie, R (because that’s the sound he makes), and his best friend, M. They have achieved a kind of zombie society in spite of their lost humanity. They kill and eat humans – especially their brains – because doing so lets them experience the memories and humanity of the victims. During one encounter, though, R spies a young woman named Julie from across the airport where he lives. It is love at first sight and his heart begins beating again.
Julie winds up getting attacked by the Boneys (zombies who have fully shed any lingering humanity and will kill and consume anything including other zombies) during the raid to recover medical supplies for the human encampment nearby. R saves her and hides her in an airplane where he has made a kind of home for himself. As the pair hide out there for a few days, R gradually begins to recover his humanity. By the end of the movie, he has become fully human once again and so have the other zombies who began following his lead. Now, in the context of the movie it is human love that reverses the curse of zombification, but the parallels to the Gospel are obvious. God’s love rescues and redeems us in Christ from the death of sin. It’s worth watching (and is available on HBO Max if you have a subscription).
God’s love, expressed through Christ, offers us the ability to be made alive once again where we were dead in our sins. This is very good news indeed. But it gets even better. We’ll talk more about that tomorrow, Lord willing.