Batman & Elijah: Battle For The Cowl
After Batman’s “Death” through the “Batman R.I.P.” and “Final Crisis” sagas, there was a hole in the DC Universe - A great big Batman sized hole - which of course means Gotham is falling apart, with a quickness. Villains are turning things up a notch, heroes are struggling to fill in the gaps, but nothing is really filling the void for Batman. So in comes the conflict. There needs to be a Batman. Dick Grayson (Nightwing) is the rightful heir to the Cowl; he has been with Batman longer than anyone. Or even Tim Drake (Red Robin), who in the Batman: Hush storyline, Batman states that Tim will one day be Batman. Then there’s Jason (Red Hood) who, since returning from the dead, has been on the homicidal maniac side of things. Wouldn’t it have been better if Batman had left instructions? ...Oh wait...he’s Batman. Of course he left instructions. Batman told Dick not to become Batman, that Gotham didn’t need a Batman with Nightwing and all the other heroes around. Well, he was wrong.
One of the things I’ve been taught throughout my years in ministry is that a good leader replaces themselves. They continually raise up the next generation to be there after they are gone. One of the best examples of this is with Elijah and Elisha. Elijah was one of the “Big” prophets. We first meet him in 1 Kings 17. He was kind of a boss. He survived a 3 year drought, and spent his time being fed by ravens and supernatural kitchen ingredients. He also was the guy who outran chariots and defeated the prophets of Baal by calling on God to send fire from Heaven. So the guy had a track record of kinda being a big deal, much like the caped crusader. Except God instructed Elijah in 1 Kings 19:16 to go and anoint Elisha for the work God had prepared for him. God knows that all of our work in this world is seasonal, whether we are obedient prophets or costumed vigilantes.
I find it hard to believe Batman wouldn’t have prepared in advance for Nightwing to become Batman, but for the sake of the storyline, I’ll just pretend like that made sense. When we don’t replace ourselves or prepare for those who come behind us, we kinda leave things in chaos, which is what happened in Gotham. Nightwing became bitter and cold, much like his prodigal adopted father before him. Tim begged and pleaded with Dick to become Batman. Tim was introduced to us a long time ago as the young boy who deduced Dick and Bruce’s secret identities. He knew that not only must Gotham have Batman, but Batman must have a Robin. But Dick wouldn’t listen; he was stubbornly obeying Bruce’s last wishes as the city burned.
If we aren’t training up future leaders, if we aren’t making disciples, if we aren’t replacing ourselves, what do we expect will happen? When our season is over, the area we have spent so much time in will be left in ruin. Not that God can’t bring someone else in after a time to repair it, but God shows us that it’s wise to have this done in advance. When I left my first real, long term, grown up ministry position, I gave them 6 months’ notice. I knew God was calling me to work in a church more on the discipleship level of things, but I had no job lined up or even an idea of where I was going. But I still gave them six months’ notice. It was super awkward and painful at first, but it was still something that helped them prepare for what was coming next. Even if you aren’t a minister, this applies to you.
The job you work in, the school you are in, or if you create art, or whatever you do, we are called to help replace ourselves. But here’s the cool thing - it’s not that you even have to find people to replace you; it really boils down to investing in other people’s lives. When you do that, this process becomes natural. When you invest in other believers and walk alongside them in the Gospel, discipleship becomes natural. In 1 Kings 19:21 Elisha set out to follow Elijah as his servant. Not to necessarily replace him, but to walk with him, to work with him, learn from him, and serve with him. When you get into 2 Kings, especially verses 1-8 you see that Elisha stood by his master through every struggle and trial. Let me ask you, how many people in your life are you genuinely investing in? Or even more so, how many people are genuinely investing in your life?
So back to Gotham. Because of the Chaos that has erupted without Batman, Jason Todd (whom I normally love) has gone bat-crap crazy and is dressed up an armored hardcore Batman killing criminals left and right. Jason, trying to fill a role he isn’t meant for, attacks Dick and even shoots Damian leaving him seriously wounded. Out of frustration and desperation, Tim takes on the mantle of Batman and goes after Jason, which doesn’t go well, and Tim is also seriously injured. Finally the story concludes with Dick and Jason having a slugfest on the top of a train. With Jason defeated, Dick finally goes back to the cave and takes on the role of Batman. See, this could have gone so much smoother.
Check how it went with Elijah and Elisha. In 2 Kings 2:9 “When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.” Not only had Elijah poured into Elisha, he made sure he was well provided for before he left. But check out Elisha as well. He didn’t begrudge the role being placed on him, or all that implied. He asked for more. He wanted God to be in his life twice as much as He had been with Elijah. Think of how much smoother it would have been for Dick if once Batman was gone he just said “I’m gonna honor Bruce and be twice the Batman he was.” But because he fought the concept, all the chaos ensued. I think this serves to tell us that not only should we be investing in others, but that when it’s our time to step up, when it’s our time to take the cowl or the mantle, we rise to the occasion. If we don’t, we may not be responsible for our city being overrun by criminals and two of our partners being wounded by a psychotic ex-partner, but it still might not be pretty. How many times have we been unprepared to take the next step when it’s right before us? Don’t be like Dick, even if you are discouraged by the one that came before you.
Elisha was brokenhearted to see Elijah go, but still this is how he handled it in 2 Kings 2, “13 Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 He took the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and struck the water with it. “Where now is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.15 The company of the prophets from Jericho, who were watching, said, “The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha.”
Elisha picked up and took the responsibility he was given, and in many ways surpassed his mentor. Dick eventually became Batman, and I have to say,
personally, I loved Dick as Batman. I wish he had stayed longer. His relationship with Damian as Robin and the way he handled the mantle was a beautiful story to me.
There’s a phrase that’s often stated in ministry, that you as a believer need a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy. Someone pouring into you, someone walking along side you, and someone you are pouring into. I guess you could say every hero needs an Alfred, a Batman, and a Nightwing/Robin/Red Hood/Red Robin/Batgirl, or something like that, but you get the point.
Walk along with others in your life and faith. Pour into others and prepare them to follow after you, and when you are given the opportunity to move forward and take the mantle, take it boldly and embrace it... or Gotham will burn.