But that’s not how the story ends. Two friends were following Buffy hoping to help her in some way. They arrive in the underground lair seconds after the Master has blasted his way to the surface. There lies Buffy face down in a pool of water.
It turns out that The Master gained great strength from Buffy’s blood and had not drained her of a life threatening amount. Rather, Buffy drowned when she fell into the water. One of Buffy’s friends resuscitates her. She suddenly opens her eyes, inhales, and coughs up water.
While the rationale is excessively lame, I have to point out that, of the two friends, it is not the superpowered one who is able to revive her. Rather, the normal humble one gives life. This is not actually consistent with the themes I’m pointing to in this post, but it does have it’s own Gospel dynamic. It is emphasized in the climax of season 6 when Buffy’s powers are useless but a normal carpenter saves the world by being willing to die.
In any case: strangely, she does not feel weakened. She feels stronger. The initial sequence of Buffy being knocked down and getting back up seems to have been emblematic of her dual with The Master. Having new life she returns to the surface to confront The Master. She finds him on a rooftop. While in the underground cavern he had used the shadows to hide and ambush Buffy, here there was no way to play such tricks. They can only fight and Buffy wins, throwing the vampire down to the ground where a convenient sharp wooden branch penetrates his heart.
So there are two dynamics here. One is obvious to my Christian and many non-Christian readers: Buffy dies and rises and is thus able to defeat evil.
But the other dynamic is what I want to focus on: Buffy, by her dying, liberates and empowers the evil so that it can finally be dealt with once and for all. That was the despair-inducing truth that the Master boasted in before he bit her: that it was precisely Buffy’s heroic action that would provide him with the power he needed to rise and open the Hellmouth.
In order for God to “condemn sin in the flesh” of Jesus on the cross, he had to intensify sin. The evil needed to reach its full power and offense. This, it turns out is what the whole era of the Law was for. And herein lies the great irony and joke and scandal that God has made.
Like Buffy, Israel had a mission, to bring light to the world and combat the darkness through the Law that God gave:
You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (from Exodus 19).
See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today? (from Deuteronomy 4)
So Israel obeys God and spreads his true worship. It is simple. Like a mission to use one’s supernatural strength to fulfill one’s calling to slay vampires.
But Israel kept failing. They would fall into idolatry and sin and have to be restored. The Mosaic system eventually got to the lowest point and God ripped the Ark of the Covenant out of the Tabernacle. But they he mercifully gave Israel a new sanctuary (Temple) and a new government (kings). Then that system had to be judged and God later gave Israel a new and better covenant with a new Temple and a new environment (empire) in which to be light to the nations.
And when Jesus comes he finds an Israel that is worse than ever. It is so bad that, unlike anything we find in Israel of the Old Testament, demons are haunting the populace, and even acting as ghouls in graveyards. The hellmouth is vomiting out legions of the undead into Israel and Jesus fights and conquers them.
So one would expect that Jesus to bring repentance and righteousness to Israel. You would think that he would cause Israel to turn from their path and return to God.
One would be wrong.
Jesus’ calling was actually to intensify Israel’s sin–to set up Israel in their final act of apostasy. He brought about the Final Judgment when the sky went black and the earth shook and quaked.
Like Buffy, Jesus found this calling hard to fulfill. He sweat blood as he begged God for a plan B. While he couldn’t fall into real sin or disbelief about his mission, his disciples could and did, telling him he had to be wrong about his mission to be rejected and die.
But this rejection set up the possibility that God would finally and truly deal with sin. The occasion of Jesus’ crucifixion became also the means of sin’s judgment. From Romans 8:
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
And all along, Israel’s disobedience to the Law, and the climactic act of rejecting Jesus, was the means God used to accomplish this end.
And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s [Adam’s] sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.
through their [Israel’s] trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles… their trespass means riches for the world… their failure means riches for the Gentiles
For if their rejection [when they rejected Jesus] means the reconciliation of the world [which the cross of Christ brought about], what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? [i.e. Israel has now fulfilled their role and should be encourage to join the side of the vampire slayers now]
For just as you were at one time disobedient to God [as pagans] but now have received mercy because of their disobedience [historically to the Law and climactically in the rejection of Jesus], so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy [hear and see the Gentile conversions and be convicted and repent]. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.
In point of fact, Paul’s message that it was Israel’s sin, rather than Israel’s obedience, that led (with the obedience of Christ) to the salvation of the world, produced mocking unbelief. Thus Romans 3:
Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God [i.e. to bring them to the nations]. What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God [will God allow Israel’s unfaithfulness to foil his promises to bring salvation to the nations]? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written,
“That you may be justified in your words,
and prevail when you are judged.”
But if our [i.e. Israel’s] unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God [which is proved by his provision of propitiation, 3.25], what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world? But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.
Paul’s message was that God had arranged evil that good would come. He had consigned all to disobedience in order to have mercy on all. He had only defeated the beast by making it more beastly so that it could be finally destroyed.