For centuries, man has expressed its curiosity with the concept of good and evil.
Many have invested significant hours of study of world history and great powers that have ruled:
the Assyrians & Babylonians of ancient Israel & Judah
the historical Roman Empire during the life of Jesus and the early church
the Nazi regime of the 1930's & 40's
and more recently North Korea.
In each of these examples, we cheer for the “good guys”.
This curiosity has even manifested in the realm of pop culture and entertainment, too. The public loves to vilify famous people to perpetuate the good versus evil fantasies many like to live in and follow.
Think about our TV viewing preferences. How many police and legal justice series have been made over the years? Our current Netflix watch is Hawaii Five-O.
We crave for the "good guys" to win and the "bad guys" to lose. We're even intrigued in how it will be accomplished.
Yet, what about a red bean paste roll playing a superhero?
You're probably thinking what I thought when I first heard this Japanese cartoon's concept. But, yes, this cute, round-headed red bean paste roll ("anko" あんこ- red bean paste and "pan" パン - bread in Japanese) is many kids’ favorite superhero in Japan. Our kids are no different.
Yet, listen to this beautiful story and how it depicts good and evil. Reflect on what other good and evil story we as Christians rest our hope in.
Anpanman and his evil counterpart, Baikinman ("baikin" ばいきん - germ in Japanese) were born at the same time. Yet, they represent two different set of values. Anpanman is heroic and looks to constantly serve and protect members of society. Baikinman looks to reek havoc on the world. Each episode displays this tension through various plots using different characters. But, Anpanman isn't your normal superhero.
He doesn't come in with guns or fisticuffs. He defeats his enemies by the giving up of himself - red bean paste roll. He provides the sacrifice of Himself for the life of those he came to save. Since Anpanman's head becomes deformed as result of his sacrifice, Uncle Jam (a father figure of sorts to Anpanman) bakes a new red bean paste roll/head for Anpanman. This cycle continues throughout this famous cartoon series. So, Uncle Jam (a father figure) provides Anpanman (like a son) for the world, so they would receive new life - the bread of life.
Remind you of Somebody else?
Jesus said to them, “I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst" (John 6:35).
Jesus says this at the heels of His miraculous feeding of the 5,000 men plus women and children with just five loaves of bread and two fish (John 6:1-15). Jesus uses this simple imagery to convey one simple message. He is the Bread of Life. In Jesus is found life. Believing in God's Son, Jesus Christ, we are promised to have new and everlasting life. Jesus says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life" (John 6:47).
This is a powerful tool and witness amongst our Japanese community who's children all adore Anpanman and his quest to save the world - a concept we all enjoy, right?
Anpanman was written by a Japanese Christian, Takashi Yanase. He desired to convey this very message to those around him.
What are creative ways you use to share Jesus as the source of eternal life?