Loki : Glorious Burden
Spoiler Warning: This contains spoilers for Loki season 2
I didn’t write anything on Loki season 1 because I didn’t feel like the story was complete enough for me to share my thoughts on it. Now that I sit here on the other side of season 2, I feel burdened with the glorious purpose of fleshing out the incredible depth and feelings the end of this series produced in me and many others.
The bulk of season 2, and much of season 1 felt like a well thought out argument over the need for morality/law/guidance/and intervention on people’s existence as a whole. Should we be given free reign with no guidance just to live as we want, regardless of consequences? Should anyone have the authority to guide, direct, or prune the circumstances of others? Is trying to guide the journeys of others even effective? Or does it do more damage?
Those are questions that are not only relevant in the plotline of Loki, but also in how we saw the world in early portions of the Old Testament. Let’s start with Loki though.
The TVA like any organization had some good elements and plenty of bad ones. While they spent most of season one under the puppet guidance of He Who Remains, once liberated there were those like B-15, O.B., and Mobius who wanted to make the TVA the best it could be, while others wanted to make it more destructive than it ever was before.
The TVA throughout the show struck some familiar chords. An attempt to guide people. Guidance that seemed restrictive and intrusive. Guidance that while accomplished its goal for a time was never going to be a permanent fix or accomplish all that it needed to. To me, the TVA was a good representation of the Law. By law, I'm referring specifically to the Law of God. The Old Testament commands that God gave for His people to be governed by. Laws to guide, to instruct, to prune, but that ultimately would never be salvation.
God gave the Law to guide us until salvation could be made possible, but it wasn’t always a path that was well received. Like with the Law when it was first introduced, like Biblical teaching now, and like the TVA at its best, people don’t always want instruction. They don’t always want guidance. Like Silvie, most people just want to do what they want and not have anyone try to correct or guide them, even if their independence ends in destruction.
“Interfere for good. Heard that one before.” - Silvie
“I know you just want to be left alone to live a life on your branch” - Loki
When the discovery that the variants and branches were actually people and not just mistakes and anomalies, that made pruning so much worse and horrifying. As B-15 watched the monitor after the bombing and just cried “Those are people.” Because it is so easy to do to allow rules, regulations, and preferences to reduce people to something less than people, but that is never the goal or the heart. The Law was never meant to make people be treated as less than people, but people executing it harshly could easily accomplish that. God also talks of pruning people, but when He does it, it is out of love to remove unhealthy things in our lives so that we can actually live.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it more abundantly.” - John 10:10
When it came to living by the law God gave, even with the best leaders, intentions, rules, and directions to keep a people on a path towards God that would give them the best outcome possible, it rarely went as smoothly as it could have. There were factions, manipulations, murders, strife, and anguish, and the law, like the TVA, became an enemy to people as much as it was accomplishing good. While the Law was never salvation or able to completely redeem the people, it was the best option at the time. Much like Loki later believed the TVA was in season 2.
As Loki told Sylvie;
“The TVA is the only defense and if what I saw of you is true, then there’s nothing that stands between this world and utter destruction, without the TVA. All of this, everything.”
The author of Hebrews makes similar observations, because the Law was a best option for the time, but like the TVA was only going to be able to be a temporary solution.
“The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, my God.’” First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” - Hebrews 10:1-10
God gave the law, but it was never meant to last, it was something to hold us over until Jesus would ultimately bring salvation. The law had had century after century of people trying to abide by it, and it still could never ultimately bring them a right relationship with God like intended. The law had representatives like prophets, priests, judges, and kings yet didn’t have enough strength to bring it to the end game. It was never going to result in salvation, just like the TVA was never going to be the end result. As Loki and Victor finally realize after Loki spent several lifetimes trying to correct the throughput process and get Victor to the loom and back in time, only to realize it was fruitless.
“The loom will never be able to accommodate for an infinitely growing multiverse. You can’t scale for infinite. It's like trying to divide by zero. It can’t be done.” Victor
“So, no matter how much we increase the throughput, it will never be enough” Loki
“Never enough.” Victor
“And the loom will always fail.” Loki
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1-4
The TVA wasn’t strong enough to save the branches, just like the law wasn’t strong enough to save us. The burden of our salvation was going to fall on Jesus and that is by no means an easy task. We think it was an easy thing for Jesus because we’ve always known the outcome, but it was a painful process even before the actual physical act. Jesus was in pure anguish over what it was going to mean for Him to actually bring redemption on our behalf.
“Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” - Matthew 26:36-46
In Luke’s account, Jesus was even sweating blood from the experience.
“And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Luke 22:44
Jesus knew what was going to have to be done to actually save the lives of mankind. It broke His heart. He was overwhelmed with sorrow. He felt weak. He begged God for another way, but He understood that He had to keep moving forward.
Loki began to realize that he had a seemingly insurmountable task before him. That the only way to save everyone would be at his own sacrifice. As he time slips back to the beginning of his interactions with Mobius, he has this conversation;
“Comfort? Well there’s no comfort. You’re not gonna find comfort at the TVA. Most purpose is more burden than glory. And trust me. You never wanna be the guy who avoids it. Cause you can’t live with the burden.” - Mobius
“How do you live with it?” - Loki
“Scar Tissue...the hard thing to do was the thing that had to be done. And by hard, I mean impossible. No there’s no comfort. You just choose your burden.” -Mobius
The man who had been declaring since his introduction that he was burdened with a “Glorious Purpose,” now was facing the full weight and burden of fulfilling it. It was no easy task and I'm sure we all felt great empathy and sadness for Loki as he took those steps towards his new role. I’m not knocking anyone for having empathy for Loki, but I do think it kind of a telling moment of our hearts and culture that the same people that could be emotionally moved by Loki’s fictional sacrifice could be completely bitter and calloused to what Jesus actually did. Like even if people don’t believe Jesus to be salvation or the Son of God, that they still could be resentful to the story of sacrifice out of love. I think much of our collective heart as a culture has been hardened, and I hope this moment in Loki will serve as a good reminder to see things for what they are. While Mobius said there was no comfort, Loki was doing it so that his friends and all the branches could live. While there was obviously no comfort in Christ’s experience in the cross, Hebrews tells us that a similar joyful hope is what kept Jesus going even when He so deeply wanted an exit to the pain.
“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” - Hebrews 12:2
As Loki sat down, he grasped the loose strands of the time branches, giving them life, and holding them all together. This essentially formed the legendary world tree “Yggdrasil.” Loki was going to hold the time lines together and keep them functional. Which is another really solid parallel to Jesus, because Colossians speaks on the same concept.
“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:16-17
This passage states that Jesus is literally holding all of existence together. It may not make the pattern of a cool tree, but He is literally holding all that we are and all that we could be together. He formed it and keeps it together, the same way He forms us and keeps us together.
Loki was an absolutely beautiful and powerful story. It reminded me that sometimes things are simply placeholders for better things to come, as Loki stated. “If there’s a hope you can replace that thing, with something better.” Our sin spun us into chaos, the law was a placeholder to keep us together until that something better came. Jesus didn’t initiate that redemption by sitting down on a throne, but rather by getting up off of one. Through his death, resurrection, and life that followed He is holding us together now, and forever.