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21 July 2017

The Time Lord and the Lord of Time

The Time Lord and the Lord of Time

Chine McDonald is head of Christian influence & engagement at World Vision UK

Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee, Baker, Davison, Baker, McCoy, McGann, Eccleston, Tennant, Smith, Capaldi.

As you’ll no doubt have heard, the list of actors who have played Dr Who since 1963 had a new addition this week: Whittaker. And just like the genealogy that begins Matthew’s gospel, the final name in the list was perhaps not one that some had been expecting. For Jodie Whittaker, who is to play the 13th Time Lord, is a woman.

The BBC’s much-anticipated reveal has now been viewed more than 16 million times, opening up the world of possibilities for little female Dr Who fans as their eyes widened in astonishment as for the first time they saw themselves reflected in the image of the Time Lord.

Of course, not everyone is delighted.

One Twitter user said: “Sorry this is so-called equality, women’s rights, political correctness gone – Dr Who was written/created as a man! End of." Another tweeted: “As usual, the BBC have to muddy the waters through political correctness that’s what they do! (sic)”

Maybe they have a point. After all, I wouldn’t be overjoyed if one of my favourite female characters was suddenly played by a man. But the difference is that Dr Who has been portrayed by different types of people over the years, albeit each of them male; and its content has been re-shaped and re-moulded according to its context. Change is at the very essence of Dr Who.

In the centuries before Jesus’s earthly reveal, God’s people had an expectation of who the Messiah would be, where he would come from and what he would do. But like the latest Time Lord, Jesus broke the mould and smashed all expectations, subverting our pre-conceptions.

And of course, not everyone was delighted; as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:23, "...we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles."

Maimonides, an influential scholar of the Torah, from the Middle Ages, wrote:

"Could there be a greater stumbling block than this [Jesus]? For all the prophets spoke of the Messiah who will redeem and save Israel, who will ingather all its exiles, and who will strengthen them in the fulfillment of the Torah's commandments - while he [Jesus] caused Israel to be killed by the sword, their remnants to be dispersed and humiliated, the Torah to be switched for something else, and most of the world to worship a G-d other than the G-d of Israel!"

Jesus wasn’t what was expected. He did not fit the mould of what we might have imagined God Himself on earth would look like. But the very fact of the incarnation – God taking on human form – enables each and every one of us to see ourselves reflected in the almighty. It breaks down the barrier between us and God.

In the upside-down world of the kingdom of God, this unexpected hero also says and does unexpected things. Turn the other cheek, he says. Love your enemies. The last will be first. And it’s the meek who will inherit the earth. He picks not the best of the best, but a raggle-taggle flawed group of followers who make the kinds of mistakes that you and I would have made. After the greatest event in history, it’s a woman he appears to first.

This is the messiah whose reveal had been anticipated for centuries. And when this Lord of Time finally turned up, he was nothing like we had expected. God is bigger than our imaginations, not constrained by the way things have always been done. He is able to do far more than we could ask or imagine. What an amazing story that is.

Image: CC Wikipedia