Wednesday, August 29, 2007

three hundred

I love the movie "300". It is definitely not for youngsters due to the violence and some adult content. But there is just something about that movie that stirs up something in my soul every time I watch it. I have been trying to reflect on why I am so moved by it.

I love that when Ephialtes comes to King Leonidas and asks to fight, he doesn't get rejected because of his disfigurement. In fact, Leonidas invites him to help with the battle by clearing the battle field and helping the wounded. But Ephialtes doesn't want to do that, he wants to fight. King Leonidas tells him that he can't fight with them. When the Spartans fight, they come together as "one impenetrable unit" with their shields. Each soldier has to protect the man next to him. Because Ephialtes couldn't do that, then he couldn't be on the front lines. I love that picture of unity.

I love that Xerxes is called "King of Kings" and "Lord of Hosts." These are titles that can only be given to a ruler whose kingdom stretches across continents. It can only be said of a ruler who rulers even other kings and their kingdoms. When one thinks about the vastness of the Persian Empire at that time and the power that Xerxes had it is mind-boggling. It also adds some context to when Jesus is given those titles, "King of Kings" and "Lord of Lords." His Kingdom is vast beyond imagination.

It’s interesting how Xerxes tries to take over Sparta. First he bribes the religious cult leaders and strategic people in their government. Once he has them in his back pocket, he approaches King Leonidas on the battlefield one on one. He first tries to appeal to logic, something Greeks are known to value. Then he asks Leonidas to consider the fate of his loved ones back home when he loses this battle. After these threats don't work, Xerxes moves to bribery. He tries to appeal to the Leonidas' ego and desire for wealth and power. Xerxes offers him the chance to rule over all of Greece if only he would bow down to him. After Leonidas refuses, Xerxes promises to blot him and the Spartans out of the history books.

This scene reminds me of Jesus dealing with the temptations of Satan in the desert. Jesus is offered all the kingdoms of the world. All he needed to do was bow down and worship Satan. Instead, Jesus chooses the way of the cross, knowing that death waits for him in his near future.

I also love the language that Xerxes uses to describe himself to Ephialtes. He offers the traitor everything that he can imagine, all the pleasures and wealth that he could handle. It's overwhelming for Ephialtes. He doesn't have the strength of character to resist the temptations. Xerxes says, "Your gods were cruel to shape you so, friend Ephialtes. The Spartans too were cruel to reject you. But I am kind. Everything you could ever desire, every happiness you can imagine, every pleasure your fellow Greeks and your false gods have denied you, I will grant you for I am kind. Embrace me as your king and as your god. Lead my soldiers to the hidden path that empties behind the cursed Spartans. Your joys will be endless." And after that kind of offer, Ephialtes agrees. He wants wealth, women, and one special request, a uniform.

Then Xerxes says this classic line. "You will find I am kind. Unlike the cruel Leonidas who demanded that you stand. I require only that you kneel."

In the words of Xerxes, I hear the voice of the enemy. These are the same words that Satan whispers in all of our ears. He pretends to be kind by giving us pleasure, wealth and power. He calls everyone else cruel. Those in our life who would call us out, those who would hold us to a higher standard, he calls them cruel. And yet the truth is that Leonidas was the kind one and Xerxes' kindness was simply a hidden cruelty.

Besides all the testosterone filled fighting scenes that make me want to jump up, take a shield and joint the fight, there are significant scenes of meaning in this film. There are important lessons to be learned about the nature of temptation and the strategy of the tempter. There are lessons to be learned about the strength of unity and the power of having a vision to die for. Leonidas had a vision of Sparta that meant people lived in freedom. He was willing to die for that vision. He was willing to truly lead when the rest of the world was bowing their knee to a tyrant ruler. I leave so inspired every time I watch this movie.


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