Fans of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter stories are counting the days until 12.00 am on 1 August, when her script of the stage play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will be published online. Her seven books about the boy wizard were a publishing phenomenon across the world, blazing a trail for many other authors to follow with varying success.
Now please don’t get me wrong: I am not in any way endorsing the content of the Harry Potter books. The Bible is very clear about what our attitude should be as Christians to magic. I am not suggesting that anyone should read these books. The only point I want to make here is that if you have non-Christian friends who are gripped and excited by the storyline of the Harry Potter books, you should encourage them to read the Bible. Here’s one way you might do it…
(In case you don’t know the bare bones of the Potter saga, there is a dark wizard called Voldemort who wants to take over the world by (magical) force. The only one who can stop him is a boy about whom a prophecy was made, predicting that he would have the power to destroy the Dark Lord.)
But here’s another prophecy. A very ancient one. A prophecy that goes back to the very dawn of our race. It was written down by Moses in a book we call Genesis in about 1400 BC, but it was spoken much much earlier than that. It is a prophecy spoken not by a human voice, but by the voice of God himself in the Garden of Eden: T__he LORD God said to the serpent, "I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel."
One day, said God, a man mysteriously described as “the seed of a woman” will crush the head of the serpent. “The seed of a woman” is an odd phrase isn’t it? We usually talk about the seed of the man – but there’s going to be something unusual about this man’s birth. It’s as if a human father won’t feature in his birth. He will be produced, as it were, just by a woman.
And this man will be given the task of destroying the serpent who tempted the first humans to sin. He will single-handedly put an end to the Prince of Darkness. But did you notice how this will happen? The man will crush the head of the serpent, but in the process he will be terribly, agonisingly wounded. He will stamp on the serpent’s head, but even as he crushes the life out of the serpent, the serpent will strike at the man’s heel and sink its fangs deep into the man’s flesh. The serpent is destroyed, but at a terrible cost to the serpent-crusher.
Who could this strange prophecy be talking about? The rest of the Bible answers the question by gradually telling us more and more about this serpent-crusher. He will be a descendant of Abraham – he will belong to the tribe of Judah – he will be born in Bethlehem – he will be descended from David – he will be born to a virgin, without a human father. The picture builds up and up until 1400 years after Moses recorded the prophecy a baby boy is born in Bethlehem, under the light of a star that appeared to herald his birth.
Voldemort and his followers (the ‘Death Eaters’) tried to kill Harry Potter, believing him to be the boy the prophecy referred to – the one who would destroy him. The serpent knew that this little baby in a manger was the one who would crush his head, and so he tried to destroy him first. He used one of his “Death Eaters”, King Herod, to kill all the baby boys born in the Bethlehem area. Just as down through the centuries since the prophecy was first pronounced in Eden, the serpent did his utmost to destroy the serpent-crusher before he was even born, by exterminating his ancestors. Read the book of Esther – he used another of his “Death Eaters”, a politician called Haman, to massacre the Jewish people in about 400 BC.
How was the prophecy of Genesis 3.15 fulfilled. It happened 2000 years ago, in Jerusalem, on a cross. Jesus, the long-awaited serpent crusher destroyed the Devil when he was nailed to a cross and died. He suffered excruciating physical agony, but infinitely worse than this was the horror of bearing God’s punishment for the guilt of all the sins of all his people in every age.
JK Rowling has written a fairy tale. But the Bible is real and we’re characters in its story. There’s a far more deadly enemy than Lord Voldemort, and an infinitely greater hero than Harry Potter for us to trust in.