We humans seem to need heroes. We create them in movies and popular culture. Heroes are larger than life figures who come to the rescue in moments of peril. I actually have a bust of George Washington in my office that was made from his life mask. Washington was America's first big celebrity. Every portrait artist in America wanted to paint his portrait. George got tired of posing for paintings and so the famous French sculptor, Jean-Antoine Houdon, used a plaster cast to make a life mask for him to loan out to portrait painters so he wouldn't have to keep posing in person. As a history buff, I have to admit that having a bust made from General Washington's actual face is pretty cool.
As a younger kid, I grew up admiring OJ Simpson, the great Buffalo Bills running back who was a star track and field athlete at USC and a Heisman Trophy winning football player. He was blessed with special talents, and was very handsome, wealthy, and seemed to be one of those people who had all the gifts. Then, in 1994, he was arrested for the murder of his former wife Nicole and a friend of hers, Ron Goldman. District attorney Gil Garcetti said it was, "the falling of an American hero." It felt a little like that to me.
Similarly, Walter Payton was an amazing running back--possibly the best that ever played. He was only 5 ft 10 in tall but he had thighs the size of telephone poles. He fearlessly crashed into tacklers twice his size when he didn't have room to evade them with his lightning quickness. His nickname was "sweetness." There is an award given by the NFL in his name every year for the most courageous player. Walter died from cancer at a relatively young age. When Jeff Pearlman wrote a biography about him, discussing numerous extramarital affairs and other indiscretions, Fox Sports published a column asking, "Can’t we just have one hero anymore?"
Some people say you should never meet your heroes because they will always disappoint you. I have had that experience on a few occasions.
It seems like something in us needs to have people to emulate and admire. When heroes disappoint us, it can feel devastating.
Heroes emerge because we need them. When there is a great tragedy in the world, like a depression or world war, we look to someone like President Franklin Roosevelt to lead us out of it. Yet, Roosevelt bowed to public hysteria and confined thousands of Japanese Americans to relocation camps where there were no criminal charges and no trials. That is a stain on our history. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. All of these leaders were fallible human beings who did great things in spite of their failings.
As some of you know, I lost a little brother to cancer when he was 17 years old. (I was 26 at the time.) His courage in that ordeal, his faith, and his willingness to accept whatever God wanted for him has made him a hero to me. I named my son, Errol Teichert, after him. The bishop who conducted his funeral read a portion of a note my brother had written to his daughter, Becky, where he said, "Jesus is our hero."
Jesus Christ is the hero I want to meet in person, and have no fear that He will disappoint me.
Jesus Christ addressed the subject of tragedy in Luke 13:
"1 There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
2 And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things?
3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
4 Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?
5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish."
There were many in Jesus' time who believed that a person is struck by tragedy only because of sin. Some thought that those who lost their lives in Pilate's butchery or who were crushed to death when the Tower of Siloam fell must have done something terrible to deserve it. Jesus taught that those who suffer tragedies are not necessarily more sinful than anyone else. He tells them that we are all sinners and need to repent.
As I was going through my divorce, I remember feeling very alone as well meaning people tried to pick apart my life and figure out how I had brought this tragedy upon myself. I am sure many of you have had the same experience.
It is falsely comforting for many to believe that those who experience good fortune deserve it because of their good works, and those who suffer deserve it because of their evil works. Jesus effectively said, "nope, sometimes a tower falls on people and it doesn't mean anything about them." In a way, he was actually saying that we all are sinners and deserve to have a tower fall on us. But, because He loves us, he let the tower fall on Him instead. That's the real hero.
What did the tower look like that fell on Jesus? In Alma 7 we learn this:
"11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities."
In other words, Jesus suffered in every possible way that we will suffer so that He would gain a deep understanding of our pain and know how to help us. This includes the pain of separation from God, of physical sicknesses resulting from the fall, of an eternity in outer darkness. That is why Jesus is our hero. We could not have suffered these things for ourselves and probably wouldn't even try. When Alma really understood the enormity of his own sins, he exclaimed, "Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds" (Alma 36:16.)
In other words, Alma would rather cease to exist than to pay for his own sins. If we are honest, none of us is any different. It is self deception to read Alma's story and say, "yeah his sins were really big, but mine are smaller." We know it doesn't work that way. No unclean thing dwell with God (1 Nephi 10:21). That is why Jesus kept saying, ”except ye repent, ye shall ALL likewise perish" (Luke 13:3, 5)(emphasis added).
If you are one of Jesus' disciples and have undergone a tragedy in this life--if a tower has metaphorically fallen upon you--it is not because you are more sinful than anyone else. Like everyone, you need to repent, and so do I. And you need to recognize that no good thing that comes into your life is the result of you being better than anyone else. God's eternal truth is that the tower will not fall on you. Why? Because Jesus Christ pushed you out of the way and let it fall on Him instead.
So, dear friends, my brother Errol was right. "Jesus is our hero." There is no larger than life figure that is bigger than the Son of God. There is no one who has suffered more for our eternal happiness and peace than He has. If some kind of a tower has fallen on you, there is only One who has the power to bless and heal and to save and exalt.
Mid-singles are not unique in their need for Jesus Christ. In some ways, mid-singles in the church are like the prostitutes and thieves and tax collectors Jesus hung around with. (See,e.g. Mark 2:15-17.) We are the people who can no longer present an image of perfection or Latter-day Saint idealism. Everyone needs Him, but the more recognizable sinners knew it and the self-righteous Pharisees did not.
Do not believe that your discipleship is over because you got divorced, lost your spouse, or have not yet married after many years of hoping. These towers did not fall on you because you committed a sin, though you have certainly committed sins. These towers falling may have woken you up to your need for our Savior. You DO need Him. I need Him. He is our true hero.