These are dark days for Harry Potter and his friends. They are all on the run, Voldemort is on the rise, and Harry, Ron, and Hermione don’t know how to do what they are supposed to do next. Their most constant mentor and the most powerful member of their wizarding band, Albus Dumbledore, is dead. He left Harry, Ron, and Hermione with a dangerous task—destroy the remaining horcruxes—but little idea of how to accomplish it.
As they try to figure out how to proceed, their stress, loneliness, and confusion begin to wear on them. They begin being suspicious of each other, short with each other, and angry about every little thing that goes wrong. They blame these feelings on the enchanted locket they cannot destroy and must take turns wearing around their necks, but the locket simply aggravates feelings they already had and lessens their ability to keep those feelings bottled up. For most of this film, our heroes are a frustrated trio.
This film is also only the first part of the two film finale to the series. So, you might be wondering, why include a separate study guide for this film when its story isn’t over until the end of the next (and last) film? Simply put, this film’s emphasis on how frustrating it can be to try to accomplish a great task is worth our attention, because the life of faith in Christ often feels very much like how Harry, Ron, and Hermione feel during most of this film.
At the end of his earthly ministry, Christ ascended into the heavens. Before he did that, he gave us a task: “Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to do everything I have told you” (Matthew 28:19-20). He also told them they must “stay in the city until you are given power from heaven” (Luke 24:49). However, he didn’t really tell them how to make disciples or what that “power from heaven” was going to look like.
So, they waited. Then, they went. But there more than a few complications along the way, including, most notably, a former enemy turned compatriot, Paul, and his contention that even Gentiles were welcome in the family of God. As we read what these apostles wrote to the groups of Christians that they started, we see that they didn’t always know what to do either. They floundered quite a bit. It seems that all of them expected Christ to return within their lifetimes, and as the years went by and persecution came, these new Christians were confused about why nothing was turning out like they thought it would. They seem frustrated much like Harry, Ron, and Hermione are frustrated in this film.
The writer of Hebrews addresses this frustration best, I think, when, in chapter 11, she or he reminds her or his readers of the men and women of the faith that preceded even Christ. The author of Hebrews reminds us that these people all died still trusting God to fulfill the promises God had made to them.
Then, in chapter 12, the writer encourages us to “keep our eyes on Jesus who leads us and makes our faith complete” (Hebrews 12:2). Just as the ancients looked ahead to Christ, we look back at Christ and around us at Christ in action in our lives and in the world. We hold on to what we have, just as Ron holds onto that little ball of light that leads him back to his friends, just as Harry keeps puzzling over the snitch until he figures out how to open it, and just as Hermione keeps reading the book Dumbledore gave her until she figures what step they ought to take next. Christ has sent us his Holy Spirit to empower us and surrounded us with his people, the Church, to walk with us. Christ will see us through.
1) Read Hebrews 11:13-16. Do you find it frustrating to be a Christian at times? Do you ever feel like God isn’t keeping the promises God has made to you? How do you most often react to these frustrations? What would help you react as the ancients did, with that “looking forward” attitude?
2) Read Hebrews 11:39-12:3. Why were the people in Hebrews’ “cloud of witnesses” able to hold on? How are we able to hold on? What are the “little balls of light” in your life that give you encouragement and lead you back to the way of Christ?
Every one of those people died. But they still had faith, even though they had not received what they had been promised. They were glad just to see these things from far away, and they agreed that they were only strangers and foreigners on this earth. When people talk this way, it is clear that they are looking for a place to call their own. If they had been talking about the land where they had once lived, they could have gone back at any time. But they were looking forward to a better home in heaven. That’s why God wasn’t ashamed for them to call him their God. He even built a city for them.
All of them pleased God because of their faith! But still they died without being given what had been promised. This was because God had something better in store for us. And he did not want them to reach the goal of their faith without us. Such a large crowd of witnesses is all around us! So we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won’t let go. And we must be determined to run the race that is ahead of us. We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete. He endured the shame of being nailed to a cross, because he knew that later on he would be glad he did. Now he is seated at the right sideof God’s throne! So keep your mind on Jesus, who put up with many insults from sinners. Then you won’t get discouraged and give up.