Jesus and the Hero’s Journey
- November 19, 2018
- Sage Blalock
This is the third and final installment of my Hero’s Journey series, the payoff you’ve all been waiting for! Today we’re going to look at the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus and their parallels to Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. Like last time, I’ll be using a detailed presentation to structure this post, this time courtesy of Cassie Ra, accessible here. Let’s get to it!
Call to Adventure
Depending on how you look at it, there are two reasonable candidates for Jesus’ Call to Adventure. First, his birth! This event marks Jesus’ entry into human history and the first step in his mission to defeat sin and save sinners. The second is his baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. After he came up from the water, the Holy Spirit descended onto Jesus in the form of a dove. Then God’s voice rang out from heaven “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased”. Either way, this is the moment where Jesus’ public ministry begins.
Refusal of the Call
While “Refusal” might be a strong word, we have the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane. On the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus prayed for hours, his sweating blood evidence of the internal struggles within him. “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will,” he prayed. Here Jesus voices his concerns for the suffering he is about to endure but, in a way only Jesus could do, he places God’s will and plan above his own safety.
In Luke’s account of Jesus’ pre-crucifixion prayer, after Jesus prays for God’s will to be done, God sends an angel to strengthen Jesus for the trial and agony that awaited him. In addition, we also need to remember that Jesus is the second person of the Trinity, meaning his entire life is imbued with Divine power and knowledge.
Crossing the First Threshold
After concluding his prayer, a crowd of Roman soldiers and other officials led by Judas Iscariot approached Jesus with swords, clubs, and torches. Clearly expecting a fight over the custody of the self-proclaimed messiah, the group must have been surprised when Jesus gave himself up without any resistance in Matthew 26. Even when Peter attacks one of the hostiles in John 18, Jesus rebukes him and commands him to put down his weapon.
Belly of the Whale
When the Pharisees and the Romans finally take Jesus captive, he enters into the figurative Belly of the Whale. In this time before the crucifixion, everything that his followers had hoped for was on the verge of annihilation.
Road of Trials
Jesus’ Road of Trials is just as trying as it sounds. Jesus is brought before the Sanhedrin and is spat upon and beaten. Because they aren’t able to kill him before the Sabbath, they send him off to Pontius Pilate, governor of the Roman province of Judea. Pilate found no cause against Jesus, and sent him to Herod Antipas, the client king installed by the Romans over Galilee, whose jurisdiction Jesus fell under. Herod had Jesus beaten and mocked before sending him back to Pilate.
Meeting with the Goddess
Jesus’ Meeting with the Goddess moment is not the traditional form that Campbell observed in his research. Before the council, Herod, and Pilate, Jesus says something considered outlandish by those who heard it:
So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“You have said so,” Jesus replied.
Jesus claims he is the king of the Jews. What’s more, in connection with Moses’ Call to Adventure, in John 8:58, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” The “I am” here just so happens to be the Hebrew name for God, the same one God gave Moses when he said “I AM THAT I AM” in Exodus. Jesus fully explains that he is God and that he is the king of Israel as God was before the time of Saul.
Woman as Temptress
As I’ve said before, the temptation component is key here, not the problematic concept of woman as that which tempts that Campbell presents. In that sense, Jesus faces much temptation: people shouted for him to save himself to prove his power, he is offered wine and vinegar to dull his pain, and he is openly mocked in the inscription on his cross. But, despite all that he faced, Jesus stood firm and pressed on into the darkness.
Atonement with the Father
In the final moment of his life, Jesus takes his final breath and shouts to God, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”. Jesus then, has become reunited with the Father in heaven (depending on your theological understanding of what Jesus was up to for the next couple of days).
Jesus, in every physical sense, dies on the cross. It appears to the world as though this former carpenter from Nazareth is finished.
The greatest miracle in the death of Jesus is the tearing of the curtain in the Temple. This artifact represented the barrier between human and divine. Only the holiest person (the high priest) could enter into the Holy of Holies within on the holiest day of the year (Day of Atonement). What was once the greatest symbol of separation in the Jewish culture was torn asunder by Christ in his death, filling the chasm that kept people from God. The boon, then, was not for Jesus: it was for us.
Refusal to Return
Jesus’ Refusal to Return is, by design, the three days in between his death and his resurrection. Thankfully for us he didn’t actually refuse.
Magic Flight/Rescue from Without
What could be a more Magic Flight than a literal resurrection from the dead? After he is risen, Jesus goes to his disciples and shows them the good news. Jesus’ Rescue from Without comes when the Angel of the Lord tells Mary Magdalene and the others that Jesus has come back, prompting Jesus’ followers to step away from the abyss of the last three days.
Crossing the Return Threshold
After Jesus reveals his freshly glorified self to his disciples, he leaves them with a charge to bring the gospel, the message of his life, death, and resurrection, to the world. He then literally Cross the Return Threshold when he ascends to heaven to rejoin the Father in glory.
Master of Two Worlds
Jesus ascends to heaven, retaking his place at the right hand of God, assuming his eternal seat as the King of Kings. Instead of merely ruling over the earth from his heavenly throne, however, Jesus sends his spirit, the Holy Spirit, to the world. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus indwells all believers and continues to move creation to its final end: God’s glory.
As I write this now, my admiration for Christ and his desire to save the ungodly moves me to a deeper appreciation for all that he’s done for me. Personally, looking at Jesus through the lens of Campbell’s monomth makes Jesus even more awesome (in the biblical sense). I hope you feel the same if you’ve kept up with the series.
As I said in the first post, I think it’s significant that Campbell’s research showed this structure to be virtually universal throughout religions and cultures across our planet’s history. I truly believe that this gives us insight into something Paul talked about in Romans 1: God has written the story of his gospel on our DNA. Whether we know Jesus or not, we know that we live in a broken world, that we are broken individuals living in broken cultures, and we are desperately in need of a Savior. God has seen our suffering, our crippling pain. His response? To enter into our oppressive reality, dying an unjust death under imperial rule, taking our sins on himself, and saving sinners like me and you
 Matthew 3:17, NIV.
 Matt. 26:39, NIV.
 Luke 22, NIV.
 Luke 23:3, NIV.
 Luke 23:46, NIV.