Last week I went to see Avengers: Endgame in the cinema. As a longtime fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’m well used to the anticipation surrounding the release of each new film. This one has been different though, since it’s the culmination of eleven years’ worth of films – 22 films in all.
Since I saw the film, I’ve read a lot of articles that pick apart the details of what happened. There have been theories and perspectives on virtually everything in the film, from a variety of angles.
A few years ago, when Captain America: Civil War released, I wrote a blog for Threads – a multi-author blog run by the Evangelical Alliance – listing three lessons we can learn from the film. I’m now going to do the same for Avengers: Endgame.
Before I carry on, I need to make it clear that there will be MAJOR SPOILERS in this post, so if you haven’t seen the film yet please don’t read on.
I mean it.
Don’t say you weren’t warned!
Ok. If you’re still here I’ll assume that you’ve either seen the film or you don’t care about spoilers. Here are three discipleship lessons we can learn from Avengers: Endgame.
1. Disciples Fail
The final scenes of Avengers: Infinity War saw our heroes encounter failure on a level they had never faced before. Each of them had been defeated in some way, but in the classic trope of the genre, they’d regrouped and won in the end against all odds. Not so for Infinity War.
With one *snap* of his fingers, Thanos wiped out half of all life in the universe. Heroes we’d watched for years turned to dust before our eyes, and we were left wondering how they were possibly going to come back from this.
The opening hour or so of Endgame shows us the surviving heroes – and the rest of the universe – struggling to come to terms with what had happened.
The most stark (good pun there) depictions of failure for me were the contrasting reactions of Thor and Tony Stark.
Believing that he was the only one capable of stopping Thanos with his newly forged axe, Thor could not cope with the fact that even he failed to prevent the *snap*. Endgame finds Thor drowning his sorrows and playing Fortnite – a flabby, hairy wreck of what he once was.
Tony Stark, on the other hand, has at least found some happiness in the midst of his despair. Married to Pepper Potts (finally), he now has a daughter and the three of them are living in a quaint cabin by a lake.
Although things look nice for Tony, it’s clear that the loss of his friends – and particularly of Peter Parker – has hit him hard. When approached to try and help reverse the *snap* his first response is to refuse in order to protect what little happiness he had found.
Everybody experiences failure – even superheroes. How we deal with failure matters. Some wallow in their failure, and in so doing add to it by failing to learn and move on. Others throw themselves into other positive things, ultimately trying to ignore the pain of their failure.
We need to learn how to move on from failure if we are to grow as disciples of Jesus. We can’t wallow in it or ignore it; we have to accept it as a normal part of life and learn the lessons from it.
2. Disciples Make Sacrifices
One of the most emotionally impactful moments in Endgame is *that* bit with Hawkeye and Black Widow.
As we learned in Infinity War, the only way to obtain the Soul Stone is to sacrifice what you love – a soul for a soul. With Hawkeye and Black Widow sent to get the stone, it was inevitable that one of them would have to make that sacrifice.
Since neither of them have powers, these two characters can sometimes be overlooked – especially Hawkeye. However, they’ve always been favourites of mine because of their nuanced backstories.
The depth of their relationship is clear to see as they face each other down and try to decide who gets to lay down their life for the other. Ultimately, they fight it out and Black Widow ‘wins,’ falling to her death and leaving Hawkeye grief-stricken but holding the soul stone.
For me, this is a great picture of the New Testament principle that we should ‘outdo one another in doing good’ (Romans 12:10; Hebrews 10:24). The idea of two people fighting to be the one who gets to die for the other could seem a strange concept, but our faith is built upon the laying down of one’s life for the sake of others.
It may not mean throwing yourself to your death in pursuit of a magical stone, but are you prepared to make sacrifices in order for God’s purposes to be worked out in someone else’s life?
3. Disciples Persevere to the End
Steve Rogers is the archetypal hero. He’s brave, he’s strong, he’s good looking. He always does what he believes is the right thing to do, even when it costs him (see point 2, I guess).
When the whole universe is struggling to come to terms with the *snap*, Rogers starts a support group. There’s nothing for him to punch at this point, so he turns his attention to helping out in whatever way he can. He just doesn’t give up, even though there seems to be nothing he can do to make things right.
When we first met Steve Rogers, he was a scrawny kid getting beaten up in a Brooklyn alley. “I can do this all day,” he said, getting up from the floor. That’s a theme that has repeated itself throughout his journey in the films. When most other people would just lie down and quit, Rogers gets up for one more go.
In the final battle with Thanos, Rogers finds himself able to wield Mjolnir, Thor’s legendary hammer, but even that isn’t enough for him to defeat Thanos. His shield smashed to pieces, his body beaten and bruised, and Thanos bearing down on him to land the final blow, Rogers rolls over, gets up and determines to keep fighting.
Jesus promised that this life will bring all kinds of trouble (John 16:33). Even when the time is coming for Jesus’ ultimate victory and the full establishment of the Kingdom of God, things are going to look dicey. Jesus’ encouragement to us is, “He who perseveres to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13).
Avengers: Endgame was, for me, a good conclusion to the story so far. I’m looking forward to seeing how they are going to develop things from here. What did you think of the film? Were there any lessons you noticed? Let me know in the comments!