You’ve heard the statement: “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” It’s actually not found in the Bible; although Romans 11:33 does say, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!”
In any case, I wonder sometimes why obvious spiritual messages strangely and unexpectedly appear in secular stories and movies. Could the Lord be speaking through a Jewish director (Irwin Winkler), or a couple of screen writers (John Brancato and Michael Ferris), none of whom are known for intentionally conveying “religious” messages in their works? Yet, this past Saturday evening as I flipped channels, I happened upon such a movie: the 1995 flick, The Net, starring Sandra Bullock.
It’s not that Ms. Bullock or her film character, computer geek Angela Bennett, are in any way Christ-like. Quite the contrary – as both Sandra’s real and Angela’s make-believe lives are more representative of the imperfect persons that Jesus suffered and died for. Still, the Messianic nature of the story-line seemed to leap out at me. Perhaps it was just this weekend’s Good Friday through Resurrection Sunday events that influenced me to correlate the plot of this cyber-thriller and its central characters with the message of salvation. It definitely didn’t hurt that the heroine was named Angela, whereas the lead villain was named Devlin; or that the computer security system which was intended to control the world’s policing and banking systems was called “Gatekeeper.”
Like Christ, Angela lived a fairly non-descript life until she learned of her mission to save the world (or at least America) from this evil plot. In the film, Angela telecommuted from Venice, California, to a software company in San Francisco. Her interpersonal relationships were completely online and on the phone, restricting her interactions with other people. Even her one known family member, her mother was institutionalized with Alzheimer’s. So when she stepped out into her mission, very few people even recognized her for who she really was. In Jesus’ case, because Mary and Joseph had shielded Him as a child from King Herod who wanted to kill Him, once He began to minister, neither His neighbors nor the religious leaders knew anything of His miraculous birth; nor that He’d been born in Bethlehem – a prerequisite for the prophesied Jewish Messiah. They only knew Him as the carpenter’s son from Nazareth.
Angela’s two closest friends who tried to help her were murdered by Devlin. This is reminiscent of Jesus’ accusation concerning the scribes and Pharisees recorded in Matthew 23: “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.”
Devlin and company (like the real father of lies) initially succeeded in stealing Angela’s identity and in creating a false one (in the name of Ruth Marx). Then he deceived the authorities into pursuing and arresting her for crimes she didn’t commit. So Angela was persecuted (and almost killed several times) under the Ruth Marx persona. Not unlike Christ who suffered and was crucified for our sins. The big difference, of course, is that Jesus’ substitutionary act was voluntary, whereas Angela’s was not.
The conclusion though has one fascinating Messianic similarity. The Bible makes it very clear that the devil would never have deceived the religious leaders into crucifying Jesus had he known that he was opening the door for millions of Christ’s followers (i.e. the Church) to enter the battle against him. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Corinthians 2:7-8) In the movie, not only does Angela succeed in emailing evidence of the plot to the FBI; but she even tricks Devlin into releasing a virus into his boss’ computer mainframe, undoing all the evil that had preceded it and revealing her true identity.
The Lord surely does work in strange ways – if even one unsaved person’s curiosity was triggered to investigate these odd correlations between the film and the Good News of salvation.