(This was the original talk for a youth service on Wednesday 18th March, 2015. For the main inspiration of talk, find the ‘Narnia and the Bible’ podcasts, they do much better justice than me. Trust me.)
The Chronicles of Narnia have proven to be good ways of getting people to know God. All of the parallels from Aslan to Jesus, right to what Narnia for me could possibly represent. So I’m going to start this off by asking, who has read the Chronicles of Narnia?
Now who has seen the films?
Well if you saw them when I first saw them, they were just cool films with an awesome lion and some annoying kids (mainly Edmund and Eustace). But after more than 2 years of believing in Jesus and learning about C.S. Lewis and his works, as well as Narnia.
Who Was C.S. Lewis?
When Lewis was younger he was a Christian but became an atheist after his mother died of cancer in 1908. World War I didn’t help and pushed him to atheism more. He spent many years of his life then not wanting anything to do with God, thinking that he was a myth. It’s said in his autobiography that he was “kicking, struggling, resentful and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance to escape” from God and Christianity. Lewis became first a theist in 1929 and two years later, gave his life to Jesus special thanks to fellow friend J.R.R Tolkien (LoTR and Hobbit).
During World War II, he did radio broadcasts for the BBC in an attempt to give hope to the British public during the London Blitz. These series of broadcasts will later be gathered up into the famous Christian book, Mere Christianity to which I extremely recommend you all to buy. He also wrote books like, The Four Loves, the Problem of Pain, Miracles and the Screwtape Letters.
C.S. Lewis has been regarded as on the great Christian minds of the 20th Century, where even people who weren’t into Christianity have said that “Men that can write readable books about religion are almost as rare as saints. One such rarity is the Oxford don Clive Staples Lewis.” Said by a reviewer of the Great Divorce, another Lewis book.
So someone that has taken the world by storm, writing some inspirational and thought provoking material for the Christian faith, decided to turn into his later years. To children’s books. Odd. He did this in 1950 writing the first book of the Chronicles of Narnia, the Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe. So I’m going to ask is it a coincidence that one of the most formidable minds of the last 100 years, decided to write plain old, nothing special, fairy tales?
So this is what my plan is. To go through this series, this book for tonight however. And see what Lewis was putting it down to by its plainest setting. To go through the wardrobe as it were.
Aslan the Lion
So I’m going to start by looking at the Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe and, well, the Lion. He is referred to as “the Lion” by Mr. Beaver. The representation of Jesus in these stories, his introduction for me was quite well done.
“And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different… At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside… Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.” – C.S. Lewis, LWW (page 65)
What a lovely introduction for the main character of our story. What do we picture of when we hear the name Jesus? But then the children then discover that he is a lion, which on the outer front is a bit odd. You’re going to represent the son of the living God as a lion? Well C.S. Lewis had his reasoning. He wrote this in one of his letters in his later years…
“Supposing there really was a world like Narnia… and supposing Christ wanted to go into that world and save it (as He did ours) what might have happened? The stories are my answer. Since Narnia is a world of talking beasts, I thought he would become a talking beast there as he became a man here. I pictured him becoming a lion there because a) the lion is supposed to be the king of beasts; b) Christ is called ‘the lion of Judah’ [Revelation 5:5] in the Bible…. The whole Narnian story is about Christ.” – C.S. Lewis
If you ever go to a zoo, you’ll know why lions are called king of the jungle. They are flipping terrifying, just look at this video:
You see what I mean?
Another reason as to why Lewis chose Aslan as a lion is because just like Jesus, Jesus is the most beautiful thing ever, but Jesus wasn’t the safest person to be around. When Jesus first came to this world, he was so good to everyone and brought peace and love. But when he comes back again, he’s gonna hold nothing back. As we can see from this quote from the first book when the children ask if Aslan is good
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” – C.S. Lewis, LWW (page 75)
Jesus is never safe to be around, but he is good.
God is good (all the time) and all the time (God is good).
The Existence of Narnia
Now, the second thing which I want to address is what happens earlier in the book, when Lucy discovers Narnia she goes back home and tells her siblings about it, they don’t take it very well and call her a liar. She gets very upset about it and the story eventually brings in the C.S. Lewis of the book, Professor Kirke. This is what he tells the eldest two.
“Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn’t tell lies and it is obvious she is not mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume she is telling the truth.” – Lewis, LWW (page 47)
Which for me sounds a bit familiar as to what Lewis himself wrote about Jesus just 10 years ago in his book ‘Mere Christianity’
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” – Lewis, Mere Christianity (page 52)
What does this mean? It means that we all have a choice to choose about what we think of Jesus. We can either see Jesus as that person that old people believe in, we can see him as someone that crazy “Bible bashers” believe in, or we can see him for what he truly is. God. And God knows how people will view you when you say “I’m a Christian” and this is how Aslan sees it in Lewis’ second Narnia book ‘Prince Caspian’.
“Will the others see you too?“ asked Lucy.
“Certainly not at first,” said Aslan. “Later on, it depends.”
“But they won’t believe me!” said Lucy.
“It doesn’t matter.” – Lewis, PC (page 125)
“It doesn’t matter” correct me if I’m wrong, but that sounds similar to what Jesus said to Thomas in chapter 20 verses 28 and 29 of John:
‘”My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”’ – John 20:28-29
It may feel as though God is light years away from you, but just like Aslan with Lucy, he won’t leave you. Never.
Edmund & Turkish Delight
Moving swiftly on… The next thing I want to talk about is Edmund. Edmund, the Afaf. I’m assuming no one wasn’t really fond of Edmund when he first appeared. Being the bully as well bit of an idiot. He was the second child in this story to enter Narnia and instead of meeting a friendly faun. He met the epitome of evil in Narnia, Jadis the White Witch. Who when first met, seems like a really nice person and wants the best for Edmund, but as you read on (or watch through), you see she is a sick, twisted, person.
And this long path of evil, and being a slave to the White Witch, started with the most evil thing in all of creation.
Because there has been a prophecy in Narnia that two sons of Adam, and two daughters of Eve will come to Narnia and defeat the White Witch once and for all. So when Jadis sees a boy just walking in the woods, she freaks out. “A boy, are there any more of them?” So she plays it cool, and offers him a drink and some delight.
This is how Lewis described the delight and how Edmund saw it.
“The Queen let another drop fall from her bottle on to the snow, and instantly there appeared a round box, tied with green silk ribbon, which, when opened, turned out to contain several pounds of the best Turkish Delight. Each piece was sweet and light to the very center and Edmund had never tasted anything more delicious. He was quite warm now, and very comfortable.”
“While he was eating the Queen [Jadis] kept asking him questions. At first Edmund tried to remember that it is rude to speak with one’s mouth full, but soon he forgot about this and thought only of trying to shovel down as much Turkish Delight as he could, and the more he ate the more he wanted to eat, and he never asked himself why the Queen should be so inquisitive.”
“Probably the Queen knew quite well what he was thinking; for she knew, though Edmund did not, that this was enchanted Turkish Delight and that anyone who had once tasted it would want more and more of it, and would even, if they were allowed, go on eating it till they killed themselves.” – Lewis, LWW (pages 37-38)
So Jadis gave Edmund this ‘poisonous’ delight and he spills the beans on his family, and she says that she would love to meet them, and she would make Edmund a king if she could. And she makes an exchange of ‘more Turkish delight’ if he brings him Peter, Lucy and Susan. And Edmund agrees to give them in. There and then, Edmund becomes a traitor to his family, and a sinner.
Before I move on, I just want to ask you. What is your Turkish delight? Because that was just for Edmund, for some of you in here it could be anything. I know I have and had Turkish delight problems as do all of us. Come clean to God about the things that hold you back from him and give it to him.
Later on in the story, Aslan does forgive Edmund and he is welcomed back to his family but pretty much, Jadis ain’t happy with it she tells Aslan.
“…You at least know the Magic which the Emperor put into Narnia at the very beginning. You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to a kill.” – Lewis, LWW (page 128)
After she tells them this, everyone except Aslan realises this and pretty much go “Poo, she’s got a point…”
Jadis refers to the stone table, which is what the law of Narnia is based on. If someone breaks the law and doesn’t die, then it’s pretty much the end of the world.
This is what the law of God is for the entire world. It says in Romans 3:23
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”
And it says this in Romans 6:23
“For the wages of sin is death…”
God knows this, Jesus knows this.
The Emperor Over the Sea knows this and Aslan knows this.
So Aslan takes Jadis to the side for a private conversation. Eventually they come to a decision and Jadis spares Edmund’s life. But before the Witch leaves, she asks Aslan if he’ll keep his end of the bargain with a fierce joy. And Aslan roars so violently and so loud with his mouth moving wider and wider apart. He’s upset. Why?
Well if you carry on watching (or reading) you see that Aslan has given himself up to the White Witch, this is what some of it reads.
“Lucy and Susan held their breaths waiting for Aslan’s roar and his spring upon his enemies. But it never came… And even now, as they worked about his face putting on the muzzle, one bite from his jaws would have cost two or three of them their hands. But he never moved…” – Lewis, LWW (page 138-139)
“He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word.He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.” – Isaiah 53:7
The Witch teases Aslan before she does the deed saying “This proves nothing, you have lost. And I’m going to kill Edmund, Narnia will be mine forever and there is nothing you can do about it.”
This is what Satan did to Jesus in Gethsemane, the temple, and at Golgotha. Saying, “This proves nothing, you’re gonna die and I’m gonna take over”.
But if both the Witch and Satan knew, there was more to Jesus’ and Aslan’s death.
After everyone leaves Aslan to rot. Susan and Lucy come to Aslan and try and set him free of the ropes that binded him and they comforted his corpse. As they turn away, they hear a shake and ‘CRACK!’ the table was cracked in half. With no Aslan on it anymore. Aslan was there again, alive! He says that if an innocent person took the place of a sinner, the table would crack and death itself would be reversed.
When Jesus returned from the dead, death was reversed and that allows every sinner to have eternal life. That includes you, and me.
And finally, I’m going to back to the original question. Why did C.S. Lewis write these children’s books?
It says in ‘Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ when Aslan is sending Lucy, Edmund and Eustace back home. Lucy says this…
“It isn’t Narnia, you know,“ sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?”“But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan.“Are -are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.“I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.” – Lewis, VDT (page 188)
Aslan has another name in this world, his name in this world is Jesus. Jack (C.S. Lewis’ nickname) wrote these stories so we can see Jesus not only in Narnia but in our world, so we can see him more, know him more and love him more in our world.
Lord I want to thank you for C.S. Lewis’ work, so that we can understand you more in our world, from his non-fiction books to Narnia. Let us understand you more Lord, let us love you more, the same way as you love us. In Jesus’ name.