One of my favorite scenes in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe takes place in Age of Ultron. With all of the Avengers hanging out after a party, they each take turns trying to lift Thor’s hammer. All of them fail to move the mighty Mjölnir, except for Steve Rogers who gets it to budge, ever so slightly. Even the great Captain America isn’t worthy enough to wield the power of Thor.
We don’t really have many reminders of our unworthiness. If Thor’s hammer or the sword in the stone were readily available, we might want to test our worth every so often. In the United States we’ve moved beyond a feudal system in which our worth could be derived by what class we were born into. In fact, a lot of us grow up in a very encouraging environment where we were told how special we were; even if we lost we still got a trophy.
So it’s a little unnerving to read a passage like Genesis 32:10 in which Jacob says to God, “I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant.” We can sort of understand what Jacob is saying, that he feels overwhelmed by God’s kindness and faithfulness. Of course, compared to God and everything that he does for us we are truly unworthy. Even though we can intellectually assent to that idea, we still have a hard time actually embracing it.
We don’t want to be unworthy. We want to believe that we could lift Thor’s hammer or pull the sword from the stone. When thinking about living in a castle we want to be the lord or lady enjoying the feast, not some servant carrying food and filling goblets. Even if we doubt our worth, we don’t really want to; we want to feel worthy and we want to be celebrated.
In the kingdom of God, though, there really is only person who is actually worthy, there is only one person who should be celebrated: God himself. The entire universe brings praise to God and, if we weren’t broken by sin, we would be doing the same thing. Because we’re sinful, selfish people, though, we want to steal some of God’s shine. We’re like Lucy Ricardo always trying to sneak her way into the spotlight to steal some of Ricky’s celebrity.
So even though we really know how unworthy we are, we still don’t want to be unworthy. Jacob was able to move beyond that feeling, though, and really embrace his unworthiness. He didn’t come to that conclusion easily; he walked a tough road dealing with his own deceptiveness and selfishness. In that moment from Genesis 32, though, he reaches some clarity recognizing that in spite of his tremendous unworthiness, God was still good and faithful to him.
We’re unworthy on our own, but God makes us worthy. Jesus’ blood covers our unrighteousness with his righteousness. We may not always deserve the best seat at the table and we may never pick up Mjölnir, but Jesus died for us, which makes us worthy. And the greatest thing about God’s love is even when we were trapped in our deepest unworthiness, he still sent his son to die for us. He’s always thought we were worthy and worth it.