By Caleb Bobrycki
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was even more surprising than its predecessor, Rise. Directed by the ambitious Matt Reeves, and starring Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, and Gary Oldman, this film is a presentation of ideas and art on so many levels. Unlike the majority of cookie-cutter action films today, this piece subtly engages social and political issues, and develops in a multi-faceted way. This review is released in the spirit of excitement for the third installment to the Apes franchise, War for the Planet of the Apes, coming summer 2017.
A theological point is hard to miss: the independent leadership of Caesar likened to that of Christ. After seeing the film, I meditated on John 10, and this article will draw out two points from that text concerning the independent leadership of Jesus Christ that Caesar the ape shows us. As you read, keep in mind the tyrannical form of leadership in John E. Dupont, from my review of the film Foxcatcher (this review is soon to be released).
 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.  He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.  I am the good shepherd.
(John 10:11-14 ESV)
Jesus is Not a Vacuum
There are two types of leaders in this text: hired hands and good shepherds. Jesus shows us that hired hands can only be bribed, and I believe this is because they are not the source of all good and the fountain of eternal life. Since their goodness is limited, their entire leadership is spent attempting to add to their lack of leadership and to make it limitless. For instance, when hired hands permit judgment it is because they were unsure of their control; those bribed into leading will punish the sheep to gain control and beat praise out of them.
Caesar pictures Christ, however, in that he cannot be bribed; he is not a vacuum. This is because his source of all good cannot be added to: the Spirit and Words of his Father are always his delight. Caesar never hurt fellow apes who threatened his position, and there was no need to; the ape did not need to convince himself he was the leader. Christ is not bribed by gifts because all gifts come from him, as he is the very door to all good gifts. For instance, when Jesus judges the wicked he is never trying to convince himself he is in control. Jesus is God, whether or not he is praised; he is never thwarted or caught off guard. He is unmoved, unrivaled, overflowing with goodness, and enthroned at the Father’s right hand. He cannot gain because he cannot lack, and vice-versa.
Therefore, His Leading is Independent
Since tyrants are hired, their leadership is dependent. Their leadership comes with a price. They lead only if the sheep love them or give them gifts. If the sheep do not respect those bribed into leadership, they seek their money’s worth; they care for money, not sheep. However, Caesar reminds us that Jesus was not purchased into leading us; rather he purchased us with his own blood (1 Peter 1:19). Caesar never backed out of leading and loving the apes when the apes stopped following him. His leadership was unconditional and independent. Jesus does not lead because we bought him, but because he bought us. The church can be confident that he is perfectly sound in his judgment and will do her only good because he only has the ability to care for her since he loves her and not only her gifts. Though tyrants seek gain at the cost of the sheep's’ life, Christ seeks the sheep’s good, at the cost his own life.
So the question is: do we trust our unmoved and unconditional King. So many apes disagree with Caesar at points in the film, but continued to trust him; this strong ape instills a sense of trust from the followers. Christ is always stirred in pity for his wayward sheep. This is the great shade the church may hide under in this scorching, tyrannical world: Jesus Christ is the great and unchanging shelter through the ages; believers’ enemies are his enemies, his scepter drawn and ready to dash them to pieces (Psalm 2). Come, and lay on the breast of King Jesus while he scans the whole Earth, daring anyone to threaten his sheep.