I just rewatched The Matrix (VHS version!) a few nights ago. It’s hard to believe this movie came out in 1999, yet another reminder that I am getting old. I had been thinking about the concept of the movie recently and how it relates to my walk with Jesus within the world we live in. Watching it again as a 30-year-old well entrenched in the “real world” felt a lot different than the first time I had watched it. If you can get past the various corny lines, such as Keanu Reeves’ “I know Kung Fu”, “Guns, lots of guns”, and the infamous “Whoa…”, you can see an almost parallel analogy to Jesus’ teachings on the Kingdom of God.
The idea of The Matrix is that the world everyone knows and sees isn’t actually real. It is a computer construct that tricks our brains into thinking all of these things are real. In the movie, reality is around 200 years later, where machines have taken over humanity and now use us as batteries to fuel their A.I. species. There are a few free humans living in actual reality (Morpheus, Trinity, the people of Zion, etc.), but 99% of the human species is simply unconscious and plugged in to literal farms of metal plugs, completely enslaved to the machines. These metal plugs connect all of our brain’s sensors to the computerized virtual reality called “The Matrix”, which is the world as we know it in 1999, gigantic antennas on huge cell phones included.
Within the Matrix, we are completely oblivious of the actual reality of the world in 2199 where our bodies are plugged in as batteries. We simply live life, making money, seeking fame, eating noodles, and so on.
It’s meant to be one of those movies where you leave the theater poking yourself and running your hands along the walls of the theater hallway asking, “Is any of this actually real? Maybe I am really being tricked by an A.I. machine who has pulled wool over my eyes, and none of this is actually here…”
Ironically, the message of Jesus’ Kingdom is similar to this. Jesus gives parables about people who sell every single thing they own in order to obtain his Kingdom (Matthew 13:44-46). When someone is awakened to the reality of Jesus’ Kingdom, that it is the Kingdom that endures forever, and that the kingdom of this world is only temporary (Matthew 6:19-21; 1 Peter 1:24-25), their entire life changes. They live differently. The temporary allures of this earth simply don’t mean anything anymore. Jesus even says if a person wants to truly save their life, they must lose it to this world, and if someone tries hanging on tight to their life in this world, they will ultimately lose it. He follows this by asking, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:34-37)
In the Matrix, does it matter if a person is rich or famous? Not in reality, no. They are simply hooked up to a machine next to rows and rows of other humans, enslaved. On this earth, does it matter if a person is rich or famous? In the long run, the ultimate scheme of things, the ultimate reality, no it doesn’t. Wealth or fame do not enter someone into Jesus’ Kingdom. The Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of eternal life. Sin enslaves the rich and the poor alike, as well as the cool and uncool. This truth is one of the reasons the poor and powerless were so drawn to Jesus and his Kingdom in the first century.
In The Matrix, Neo finally figures this out. While inside of the Matrix, he finally sees the Matrix for what it is. Rather than dry wall and carpet, he sees a hallway of computer code. He is able to bring ultimate reality to this code, overcoming it, and the code doesn’t stand a chance. He stops bullets in mid air and blocks punches lazily and in slow motion.
Prior to this great revelation, he is told by a small child contorting spoons in all sorts of tangled directions using only his mind, “There is no spoon.” When you see a spoon and want to move it, realize the spoon isn’t ultimate reality. Yes, you see it and can feel it, but there is something so much more valuable and powerful and in authority than that temporary spoon. The same goes for bullets and punches. The same goes for fame and power. The same goes for the countless promises that sin offers us.
In writing this, I do hope some of my non-Christian friends will see what Jesus is teaching regarding his Kingdom. That they will let go of their clutches on the make believe “kings” of this world and finally bend the knee the Only King with ultimate power, and that is King Jesus. But that’s not what led me to dust off my Matrix VHS tape or write this post.
In the “real world” of The Matrix, everything is grey and bland. The people wear grey burlap clothing and they eat “bowl of snot” porridge every day. Sometimes following Jesus can feel this way. And many turn back as a result, or have no desire for it in the first place. The glittery gold of virtual reality is hard to beat. But once you know the truth, virtual reality doesn’t stand a chance against actually breathing oxygen and actually walking in freedom. Especially when you know you will someday experience the fullness of the King and His Kingdom in all of its glory, for all of eternity.
“There is no spoon” is a call to me to see what truly matters in a world where a lot of things really don’t. To follow Jesus. To see Heaven while living on Earth. To show Heaven to Earth. To not worship Earth. To not seek out sin, but to follow Jesus’ commands for my marriage. To not seek personal glory and accolades, but to shine Jesus’ glory. To sell all I have emotionally and mentally for Jesus’ Kingdom. To know that none of the quick fixes of this earth, nor any of its glittery goal actually amount to anything in reality.
Wouldn’t it be sweet to see the temptation of sin, smirk at it, and watch its bullets stop in mid-air and fall harmlessly to the ground?
Relevance in this world is make believe. Relevance in Jesus’ Kingdom is eternal. So stop chasing the Matrix. And chase Jesus.
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