Growing up one of my favorite cartoons was Pinky and the Brain. For those who weren’t blessed to enjoy this cartoon:
Pinky and Brain are genetically enhanced laboratory mice who reside in a cage in the Acme Labs research facility. Brain is self-centered and scheming; Pinky is good-natured but feebleminded. In each episode, Brain devises a new plan to take over the world, which ultimately ends in failure, usually due to Pinky’s idiocy, the impossibility of Brain’s plan, Brain’s own arrogance, or just circumstances beyond their control. In common with many other Animaniacs shorts, many episodes are in some way a parody of something else, usually a film or novel. The opening song is preceded by the following dialogue:
Pinky: “Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?”
The Brain: “The same thing we do every night, Pinky—try to take over the world!”
I loved that opening dialoguing: “The same thing we do every night, Pinky—try to take over the world!” Brain was so passionate and ready to take over the world but he failed time and time again. He failed for many reason as listed above but he’s also an anti-tragic hero in some ways. He doesn’t know himself or his limitations, but he can’t be tragic in the fullest sense because, well, he’s just a mouse. So we laugh at the folly of his failed attempts at world domination.
At this point you may be asking: “What in the world does this have yo do with Christian faith? Or Jesus? Or the gospel? Or anything really?” Brain, a mouse taking over the world, is funny. We laugh knowingly because we know he’ll never succeed. As Scripture unfolds the gospel story and reveals the identity of the hero of that story, Jesus functions as an anti-tragic hero as well but for different reasons. He knows himself fully. He understands his mission. Even when Satan tempts Jesus with the kingdoms of the world, Jesus declines. He’s single-mindedly focused. Even when his disciples encourage him to set up a temporal kingdom now, he’s violently pursuing the cross. In a sense, the cross is a tragedy because Jesus died, but it’s, as Tolkien says, an eucatastrophe (a good tragedy).
The irony is: Jesus will establish an earthly kingdom. He will come back again and will defeat all his enemy. They will kiss the hand of the Son or perish (Psalms 2). Right now though he’s building a different kind of kingdom. He’s working in the already towards the not yet. The gospel hunts down darkness and crushes it where ever the gospel finds it.
There’s no knowing snickering. There’s no repeated, “Gee, Jesus, what do you want to do tonight?” The gospel doesn’t fail. He doesn’t fail. It storms the gates of hell and prevails.
Live your life in that reality. You participate in a story where we know the end. We are on the winning side. We are assured of the power of the gospel to stamp out darkness. Jesus reigns now and forever more. Get I get an “Amen!”?