In Quest of a Hero

by Derrick G. Jeter

In the eternal depths of the human soul lies a mystery as ancient as time. From the memorial dawn of mankind we have quested to understand this mystery through story and myth—a quest from which we cannot turn, for the mystery rests uneasy in the recesses of the spirit and beckons us “come.” 

Compelled, we obey.

And though inexplicable, we perceive the mythological calling of the quest as an echo of a higher calling, a greater calling.

It is the call and quest for a hero.

The greater and higher calling does not beckon us to quest for enlightenment, liberty, or renown—of battles fought with the strength of arms against giants, monsters, and dragons. Rather, this calling beckons us to quest for a person—a hero who fought to victory our battles in ages past against the hater of the human spirit. In conquering the hordes of hell this hero won back body and soul from the slavery of damnation.

Our response to mystery’s call is a response to eternity’s call: “Come, follow the Hero of our soul—Jesus Christ.” His story is the true voice from which all other hero stories echo. Whether we speak of Greek or Roman myths, Norse legends, or Native American tails, the hero story as many elements in common, including these examples:

  • The hero’s mother is a royal virgin
  • The hero is reputed to be the son of a god
  • An attempt is made on the hero’s life, so he is spirited away and reared in a far country
  • We are told nothing of his childhood
  • On reaching manhood, he returns to his kingdom and eventually becomes king
  • He loses favor with the gods and/or his subjects
  • He meets with a mysterious death, often on the top of a hill [1]

The hero myths of Perseus, Theseus, or Hercules foreshadowed the Hero’s story. And this is as it should be, for the Christ story was written into the very poetry of the Greeks by the Author of heroism. This is the higher and greater quest, not a search for heroic myths but a search for heroic reality—the reality of the spirit. By His resurrection Jesus Christ trumped all other heroes. His story reminds us that all heroes, whether mythological or historical, are but shadows of the Hero. And those who answer the call and go in quest for this Hero prove, once again, that God has indeed penned eternity on the human heart. Once found, these questers will not be disappointed for the Hero will rescue body and soul . . . from now until eternity.

[1] Lord Raglan, “The Hero: A Study in Tradition, Myth, and Drama, Part II,” in In Quest of the Hero (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1990), 138.