There are several reasons why I nerd out when it comes to AMC’s The Walking Dead. I’ve enjoyed reading the graphic novels and following the story threads woven between the books and television version. I’ve equally enjoyed the television series with its plot twists, character additions and development, and after show Talking Dead. I’ve also appreciated the ethical and philosophical struggles that arise during the course of the books and the show, both externally as a reader and viewer, and internally with the characters as they live in the post-apocalyptic world of The Walking Dead. But most of all I enjoy The Walking Dead because it is a well-told story riddled with religion (even specifically Christian at times), sometimes explicitly so, and yet, at other times a bit more underground. But it’s always present and always insightful whenever it happens in the story.
Take for instance the minor fact that the church bus the group used in the first season, surprisingly came from a Lutheran church. That it wasn’t a Southern Baptist passenger van is itself a small miracle.
More significantly, however, Hershel Greene quickly comes to mind. He is frequently seen reading and heard quoting Scripture, often with profound things to say both for the viewer and to his fellow characters within the story.
There’s also the wedding of Glenn and Maggie which takes place in the prison. As they’re surrounded by death, at least in the books, 1 Corinthians 13 is read. What a remarkable contrast between life and death, depicting the loving sacrifice that marriage is, even in a world gone mad. After all, the real reason 1 Corinthians 13 is called the “love chapter” is because Paul recounts for us the character and nature of God’s love for us in Christ, of which marriage is a mysterious reflection (Ephesians 5).
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.
Indeed, Christ’s love in the cross and resurrection never fails, even when steeples, our own lives, or the world around us is falling, crumbling, and sinking into the sea…or walking dead.
Recently, AMC’s advertisements on social media caught my eye. As they began to promote the show’s return after its winter break they released this little picture and tag-line, Sundays are for The Walking Dead.
That single sentence stuck in my brain all evening, indeed for a couple weeks now. Sundays are for The Walking Dead. Now, what they meant for a clever promo, I take as a profound truth.
Sundays are for the walking dead.
Consider Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
That’s what we declare every Sunday in confession: I a poor miserable sinner. I am the walking dead. I am dead in trespasses and sins.
This reveals an outstanding parallel to Paul’s words within the The Walking Dead universe. In the course of the show the group finds out at the CDC, and in the book they declare in agony, the tragic reality to the question they all wrestle with: Who are the walking dead? It’s not the walkers, the biters, or the rotters – as they’re called. But finally, and fatally…“We are the walking dead.” Seems to me that’s a pretty accurate analysis and conclusion of our sinful condition in this life. The writers for The Walking Dead echo Paul’s words in Ephesians 2 about walking in death. The problem isn’t the world. Rather, to quote G.K. Chesterton: “You ask what’s wrong with the world? I am.” I am the walking dead.
Although The Walking Dead is good at diagnosing the problem, like most post-apocalyptic stories, it is not so good at offering a cure, just like the disease the characters each carry. It appears to be incurable.
But do not fear. There is another story – a true one – which depicts not only the proper diagnosis of our death in sin, but our resurrection in Christ who is the Great Physician of body and soul. His death and resurrection are the only cure for our sin-sick condition. It is the story you should hear any given Sunday – and if you’re not, you should demand that you do. It’s true; we were (note the past tense!) dead in our trespasses and sins. Yes, we were the walking dead. Yes, the devil attacks us like a herd of biters surrounding a car full of fresh, terrified humans, seeking to devour us.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
You see, the advertisement is right. Sundays really are for the walking dead. Jesus rose from the dead for you on a Sunday. Jesus walked out of his grave on a Sunday, leaving all your sins behind him having paid for them in full by his death on the cross. Jesus appeared to his disciples who were scared to death on a Sunday, and he appeared again the following Sunday for Thomas and us who have doubts with him. Jesus showed that he is the victor over death on a Sunday.
And for us, Jesus has hallowed all Sundays to be a day of rest. Sundays are where the walking dead are raised to life by the fruits of Jesus’ life-giving, death-defying, new-creation-bringing death and resurrection. Sundays are days when we rejoice in our Baptism which buries us into Christ’s death and raises us to new life in his resurrection. Sundays are days when we rejoice in Jesus’ words: I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.
Sundays are days when we go to church, not because it’s a gymnasium for our spiritual exercise routine, and not because it’s a rehab center for habitual sinners, or even because it’s a hospital for the sick. The church is a hospice care, where the dying care for the dying and where we, the walking dead, receive life in Jesus’ name and according to his promise in water, word, body and blood.
Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.
Yes. Sundays are for the walking dead.