I love the movie, Gladiator! I shouldn’t like it so much because the story-line is brutal and unforgiving. However, the main character Maximus, played by Russell Crowe, is a courageous, strong-willed fighter who finds a way to overcome his own adversity to help others. Without going into great movie detail, after his wife and son are murdered, Maximus is also betrayed by jealous leader and enslaved as a gladiator. The story follows the wounded broken man’s life, as a fearless warrior, fueled by hate and vengeance to become a leader willing to die for someone's freedom.
The movie Gladiator reminds me of the biblical story of King David. In this story, David a young shepherd boy-- actually the youngest of eight sons --did not ask to be anything but a sheepherder. However, God chose him to be the King of Israel. It is said that David was “a man after his (God’s) own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14). David’s reputation as a champion began at an early age. You may be familiar with the story of David and Goliath. After his defeat of the giant, he became a leader in his predecessor’s army and built a reputation as a fighter and the people took notice. Just like the gladiator, Maximus, David had won the crowd but I see an important difference between them. Yes both men won the crowds but I believe the way they achieved their freedom and power came from very different sources. Being enslaved by a jealous ruler, Maximos had to fight for his freedom. He learned that by winning the crowd’s favor, he did not gain his own freedom but gained the authority and power to free the people from a tyrannical ruler. The slave never regained his freedom on earth but helped others win theirs. As a mighty warrior, the shepherd boy David, won the crowd however his focus was not on winning the approval of the people. He fought to show God’s power and might. When he stood in front of Goliath with his sling and five stones, he told the massive man,
“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands…and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.” 1 Sam. 17:46a.
David fought for his God and his people. His courage, power and even his identity as a shepherd or as a king came by acknowledging his true source of strength, God. He fought as a warrior but never lost sight of his greater purpose to serve God and rule a nation. Both men met the challenge of adversity. Maximus focused on returning the power of Rome back to the people. David was a leader focused on doing battle for God’s kingdom and for the people of Israel.
What is the value of these two stories? It seems to me that both men knew they were called to fight for something bigger than themselves. Like Maximus, we can work within our limited means to do for others. We can affect people regardless of our status. Even in his limited capacity, Maximus made a difference in the lives of others. The same can be said about the second man. We may not ever be a king, like David, however we are stronger and mightier when we rely on God’s grace and use our gifts to serve others. By continually seeking to serve God, he became not only one of the greatest kings in Israel’s history but one of the forebears to God’s Son, Jesus. David had a heart for God, which served him well. Winning the crowd brings adoration but serving others with the heart of God shows great leadership and power.