SUBSCRIBE NOW
As low as $49 for one year. Save 59%.
SUBSCRIBE NOW
As low as $49 for one year. Save 59%.

Shelburne: British author C. S. Lewis lionized Jesus

Staff Writer
Amarillo Globe-News
Shelburne

Half a century ago, I wrote my master’s degree thesis on C. S. Lewis’ now-famous Narnia books. Back then they were just beginning to surface. Most of my professors had never seen them, so they were slow to let me select Narnia as my research topic. One or two of them lived long enough to see those books become bestsellers and maybe even to see some of the Narnia movies.

As I was clearing home office shelves to make room for books out of my former church study, I ran across the typewritten (pre-computer) manuscript of the popularized version of that thesis. The top C. S. Lewis scholar in America recommended it to a major publisher, and it came literally within a few days of being accepted. That’s a story for another time, but I forgot I had that aging manuscript right there on my shelves.

If you’ve read the Narnia tales, you know that Lewis embodied Christ (the Lion of Judah) in his unforgettable Lion called Aslan. The deeper we dig into the stories, the clearer it becomes that Aslan is Jesus in disguise. Several generations who chose to ignore the Christ in the Gospels, without knowing it at the time, met him in Narnia.

Why “Aslan”? I wondered, as I researched and wrote almost 200 pages before Narnia became popular. Where did Lewis come up with that odd name? He never told us. Not long ago, quite by accident, I ran across a news story about a criminal who changed his long unpronounceable foreign name to Aslan. The story explained that Aslan in Turkish means lion. Suddenly it all made sense.

Just like Jesus in the Bible, the great Lion in Narnia chose to suffer punishment and death in the place of a misbehaver who deserved it. And, like Jesus, Lewis’ great Lion then lived again to aid his followers. Anyone who knows Jesus will see him over and over in Aslan.

One of Lewis’ most famous lines in the Narnia stories is the warning to the girls when they see the goodness of Aslan and want to embrace him. Repeatedly they are cautioned to be careful because, “He is not a tame lion.”

All Christians need to hear this truth. We become so familiar with Jesus— singing about him, communing in his memory, praying in his name — that we overlook his true identity as the God who rules heaven and Earth. He chose to become like us — “in every way,” the Bible says — so we tend to think of him as a weak human. But today he sits on heaven’s Throne, Ruler of everything. “He is not tame.”

Gene Shelburne is pastor emeritus of the Anna Street Church of Christ, 2310 Anna St. Contact him at GeneShel@aol.com, or get his books and magazines at www.annastreetchurch.org. His column has run on the Faith page for more than three decades.