By Caleb Bobrycki
Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios
When a young woman’s father is irrationally imprisoned by a beast in his castle, she takes his place. She soon finds out this beast is really prince whose appearance is under a curse due to his pride and greed. Beauty and the Beast, stars Emma Watson (The Harry Potter Series), Dan Stevens (Downton Abby), and many more brilliant actors and actresses (Evans, McGregor, McKellen, Thompson). This film is the reimagining of the seemingly age-old tale so many English speaking people have loved for many years. It is, in my opinion, as good as the cartoon, if not better. All the originality of the first is there, while also filling in gaps in the story, song arsenal, and dialogue. However, my sympathy very slightly goes out to the complaints that it is a cynical, unnecessary, unoriginal rehash of the same story. I quite enjoyed the color and creativity Beauty and the Beast, both in set-designs and warmth of acting. I am convinced most others will too. And as far as theology? It’s hard to miss.
Christ’s Superior Substitution
There is a lot of gospel in this picture; however, one piece of that always stuck out to me in the animated classic, and is here as well, is the substitution of Belle’s father by her sacrifice. Her father was imprisoned in the prince’s castle for rummaging through the garden and taking one of the flowers. The now-accursed-prince sentences the thief to a lifetime behind bars, in the upstairs dungeon. Upon discovery of her father’s whereabouts, Belle tricks the beast and her father by into thinking she merely wants to say a final goodbye, surprising them by flinging her father out of the jail cell and slamming herself shut in his stead. This is no belabored point: Belle’s sacrifice shews forth for us a type of our Lord Jesus’ substitution in the place of believers on the cross. Christ was flung into a prison cell and the church was flung out.
Here is where we get the term substitutionary atonement; herein lies the idea that Christ, on the cross, died the sinner’s death for him. God is holy, and we broke his Law; God is just, so we are under his curse; God will punish all sin, and we are all facing that punishment, that sentence. Yet Christ was treated as though he broke God’s Law, he fell under the sinner’s curse, and he was punished in the place of many. Christ was an absolute substitute for any who will believe in him and trust his punishment as sufficient payment for their sentence. Christ substitutes himself in the sinner’s place enduring the eternal wrath of God. Though he suffered in our eyes for only three hours ‘till he breathed his last, we will never fully comprehend the full weight of what happened to our Lord spiritually when his Father forsook him. We do know that he paid our price in full; therefore, since our debt was eternal, Christ suffered an eternal weight of suffering in the payment of our sentence. Since Jesus endured all of his Father’s infinite wrath, our Lord suffered more than any sinner ever will in hell. Christ’s sacrifice is much more beautiful than Belle’s simply because her father’s sentence was momentary, and the sinner’s is eternal.
It follows, therefore, that, if Belle’s act of substitution is praiseworthy, much more is Christ’s, for he paid an infinite price! Let us render unto Christ the praise that is due him for his infinite payment, especially this Resurrection Lord’s Day. And indeed the debt is paid, for Christ drank death dry, and has sat down at his Father’s right hand as King of Heaven and Earth. Indeed, the payment is no more, for, “The LORD says to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make Your enemies Your footstool.” (Psalm 110:1, esv)