The reason this scene was included is that biographers and historians have long known that Caesar’s spectacular rise to power was based on his desire to emulate his own personal hero: Alexander of Macedon, arguably the greatest conqueror the world has ever known.
In turn, despite his own share of flaws, Julius Caesar, himself, was to become a hero and an inspiration to untold millions of people down through the ages. Little wonder, as we all have heroes. This is true of every culture and every generation known to man, including us here in modern day America.
Of course, those heroes will change over time. I remember having once read an observation by Donald Grey Barnhouse, a famed preacher of a generation ago:
In 1898 a schoolteacher polled 1,440 children, aged twelve to fourteen, to find out what sort of heroes and heroines the children had. In that era, 90% of the children picked their heroes from history and letters. Washington and Lincoln led the list, followed by Whittier, Clara Barton, Julius Caesar, and Christopher Columbus. Very few of them gave first place to living notables, even such national characters as champion skater John S. Johnson or heavyweight boxer James J. Corbett.
Midway during the twentieth century a professor in the Massachusetts State Teachers College took a similar poll, and discovered a great change in modern youth. Only 33% picked their heroes and heroines from history. Franklin Roosevelt had passed Washington and Lincoln, though Clara Barton still led among girls. Thirty-seven percent of the votes went to the contemporary stars of screen, sports, radio, and the comics.*
As a child growing up in the latter part of the twentieth century, I can relate to the last statement. Long before I ever encountered the names and accomplishments of Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar in public school, I had become a devotee of the members of the "Justice League of America". My heroes were found in the likes of mild-mannered Clark Kent, who fought for “truth, justice, and the American way” under the identity of his alter ego: Superman.
I was also fond of Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, who, as Batman and Robin, hidden behind their stylish costumes, masks, trusty tool belts, and signature capes, tirelessly crusaded against a steady stream of villains in defense of Gotham City. Even today, I can still hear Robin’s high-pitched voice as he applied his favorite adjective, “Holy”, in response to every conceivable plot twist.
For these reasons, I was particularly saddened to see two concurrent headlines in the news this past week. The first declared that Yvonne Craig, the real life actress who once played Batgirl, the female heroine and crime-fighting sidekick of Batman and Robin on the now classic late 1960s live-action television show, had died at age 78.
Ironically, the same day, another headline proclaimed that one Leonard B. Robinson was fatally struck by a car on the side of the expressway after his personal bat-mobile broke down. Apparently a man of independent means, this impassioned individual had spent thousands of dollars on his own vehicle, costume, and assorted accoutrements. The self-proclaimed Caped Crusader made it his goal to visit area hospitals in full costume, and to hand out Batman hats, shirts, backpacks, and other things in order to brighten the days of children facing life-threatening illnesses.
I applaud Ms. Craig for her performance in the ground-breaking role of Batgirl. As one tribute put it, as a professional dancer, she could be seen each week doing her own stunts while "kapowing and zzonking the bad guys alongside Adam West and Burt Ward's dynamic duo". In doing so, she presented a positive role model of responsibility and empowerment for many little girls across the nation. And she did this at a time when few, if any, other female superheroes were yet in existence.
I also applaud the less well known Mr. Robinson for how he spent his life. I am sure what all he did has had (and will continue to have) a lasting impression on those children and their families. You see, it can be a good thing to have heroes. At some point along the way, we all need them. They give us inspiration, hope, and encouragement. But I suppose it is also to be expected that, sooner or later, even our greatest heroes will pass off the scene.
Maybe what followers of Jesus Christ can take from this is to remember that earthly heroes will always come and go. But there is one hero alone Who lives on! And for that reason, this one hero alone is truly worthy of admiration. For even though He too once tasted death, He nonetheless managed to do what no other hero has ever done – He came back from the dead! As such, He alone will never pass off the scene.
And that means that all the good He once did before His death (in His feeding, healing, and teaching of multitudes), and all the good He now does, in the aftermath of His resurrection (granting to everyone who seeks Him the twin blessings of eternal and abundant life) will always have infinitely more meaning than the collective gifts given by all of the other heroes that history can muster.
In the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel (10:10), after telling us that the Devil’s only purpose is to bring about death and destruction for mankind, Jesus makes this revealing declaration: “(but) I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
So, who’s your hero? What makes him or her worthy of any such title? What has this individual truly done for you? I’ll tell you what my hero has done. The Son of God laid down His own life that both you and I might gain ours! And in my book, that is truly heroic!
*SOURCE: Donald Grey Barnhouse – “Changes in Kid’s Choice of Heroes”, as collected in The Encyclopedia of Illustrations by Paul Lee Tan (Dallas, Texas: Bible Communications, 1979). Illustration also available online at: http://www.family-times.net/illustration/Honor/200456/.