The Gospel According to Sherlock
There are fragments of the gospel scattered all about our world. With a practiced eye, you can spot them in the music on your radio, the lives of your neighbors, even (rarely) the speeches of politicians. This week, I discovered one that could not have been a more poignant expression of gospel truth if its makers had been writing a sermon rather than a murder mystery.
I’ve been devouring the latest season of Sherlock. Episode 2 is titled The Lying Detective, and it includes an exchange between Sherlock Holmes and John Watson that left me thinking, “Yes! That’s how it feels to be a disciple!”
(Warning: spoilers coming. Stop here if you haven’t started Season 4.)
In Episode 1, Dr. Watson’s wife, Mary, jumps in front of a bullet to save Sherlock. This after Sherlock had promised to protect Mary. The event sends Sherlock reeling in much the same way, I imagine, that Peter felt after promising that he would never forsake Jesus and then watching Jesus die in his stead. In Episode 2, Watson tries to ease Sherlock's grief.
WATSON: You didn’t kill Mary. Mary died saving your life. It was her choice. No one made her do it. No one could ever make her do anything. But the point is, you did not kill her.
SHERLOCK: In saving my life, she conferred a value on it. It is a currency I do not know how to spend.
What truth! The amazing and disturbing thing about the gospel — the thing that deals a death blow to our egos and yet rescues our dignity — is that we have been given life through Jesus’ death. That we failed to make good on our promises, and yet received a gift fit for someone who hadn’t. That our acts are completely worthless yet our lives have infinite value. In dying for us, Jesus has conferred on us a value. We have become objects of rescue. Adopted heirs in an eternal kingdom. Our deeds are worth little, our lives worth much.
And the hard part of receiving such a gift, apart from the abject humility required, is learning how to deal with that unexpected dignity. For the disciple, all of life is learning the answer to Sherlock’s question: graced with this eternal currency, how on Earth shall we spend it?