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The Season 6 finale of Elementary, the Sherlock Holmes detective drama starring Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu, aired this week. In it, we see Watson falsely accused of murder and the lengths that Holmes will go to help her out.
The episode, which deals with self sacrifice, provides us with a great insight into Jesus’ love and own sacrifice for us on the cross.
Read on to find out how. But spoiler alert! This contains plot details of the latest episode of Elementary.
Originally filmed as the series finale (before it received a late season 7 renewal), Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) was accused of murdering a serial killer named Michael Rowan. This villain had functioned as the season’s big bad and claimed the lives of at least 16 women.
In the previous episode, Michael nearly made Watson his latest victim as he attacked her in her Brownstone home in Manhattan. Joan only managed to barely escape by stabbing him in the chest with a helicopter rotor blade. Shortly after, Michael was found dead in a garbage dump, savagely beaten to death. The episode ended on a cliffhanger with Joan as the prime suspect.
In the finale, the FBI brought Joan in for questioning. One particular piece of damning evidence was that, just as he was being beaten, Michael called out Joan’s name in surprise, which counted as a dying declaration. The lead FBI agent who was investigating the case, an Agent Mallick (guest star Parminder Nagra), was determined to see Joan behind bars.
Eventually Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) made a startling discovery. Their police chief and friend, Captain Gregson, with whom they had worked since the beginning of season 1, was somehow involved, at least in covering up the murder. It turned out that it was actually Gregson’s own daughter Hannah who had killed Michael out of revenge. The serial killer had previously murdered Hannah’s best friend and flat mate in an earlier episode. When she attacked him, Michael mistakenly thought Hannah was Joan.
Neither Hannah nor Captain Gregson ever intended for Watson to be implicated. Gregson begged Holmes not to turn his daughter in. He tried to reason that since Joan was in fact innocent, they could simply let things play out and let the FBI eventually exonerate her, a view which Watson also took as well. However, Holmes knew this would not likely be the case. All the evidence seemed to point to his partner and Agent Mallick was determined to pin this murder on her. Holmes knew that if Hannah Gregson didn’t confess, then the FBI would charge Watson with the murder. He also knew that it was the right thing for Hannah to come forward as she was indeed guilty.
Gregson pleaded that Hannah was his only daughter, while Holmes argued that Watson was his best friend. Holmes was left in a terrible dilemma with no way out. Should he turn Hannah in, or let fate play out?
In the end, Sherlock could only see one solution that would allow both Joan and Hannah to go free. He would take the blame himself on behalf of the others. He confessed to the crime so that Hannah wouldn’t have to pay for hers, and so that Joan wouldn’t have to pay for a crime she didn’t commit.
Although the FBI didn’t arrest Sherlock as such, part of the deal he made with them was that he would return to England and never set foot in New York ever again. He and Joan had been operating as detectives and consultants for the NYPD for the past 6 years and had made Manhattan their home. Sherlock would surrender himself to the British authorities back in England.
Holmes sacrificed his own career and life as a detective in New York, effectively ending his and Joan’s partnership, and any relationship he had with the NYPD.
When Joan later questioned Sherlock why he did it, he told her that it was the only way. He couldn’t let Joan take the fall for a crime she didn’t commit. On the other hand, because Gregson was his friend, he couldn’t let Hannah go to prison even though she was guilty. Additionally, he couldn’t let the captain live with the guilt and anguish of seeing his daughter behind bars. Sherlock believed that that he was the only possible person who could take the blame and still survive relatively intact.
How is the Elementary Season 6 finale a parallel for Jesus’ love for us?
Although Sherlock Holmes in no way compares with Jesus, his actions in this last episode are a small window into the kind of love Jesus has demonstrated for each one of us.
We were also guilty of a crime, so to speak. Romans 3:23-25 says
23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.”
Since we had all fallen short of God’s glory, we rightly deserved to be punished for our sins. However, God was also in a dilemma like Sherlock Holmes. God is a just God. In every day life, we expect judges to actually punish criminals when they are in fact guilty. If they don’t do so, we would not view them as a just judge.
This is the same way with God. To be a just God and judge, he can’t simply let the guilty go free. However, God isn’t simply a judge but a loving father. His mercy triumphs over judgment and he longs to forgive and pardon our sin. How can God fulfil both roles as a just judge and a loving father at the same time? To do both while maintaining both justice and love would almost seem to be in direct conflict with each other.
In his book Questions of Life, Nicky Gumbel explains how Jesus has resolved this dilemma through his sacrifice on the cross by way of an analogy. Two friends went to school and university together but eventually lost touch. As they went their separate ways in life, one eventually became a judge while the other ended up as a criminal.
One day, fate would have it that the criminal ended up in court in front of a judge, who was his old friend from school. He knew he was guilty of the crime and had no answer for it. His friend the judge had a dilemma on his hands. He couldn’t simply let his friend off the hook, otherwise he wouldn’t be a just judge. However, because the man was his friend, he loved him and wanted him to go free somehow. His solution was to fine his friend with a penalty, thereby maintaining justice. However, he immediately came down off the bench from his position as a judge and paid the fine on behalf of his friend. In this way he showed his love.
Although it’s not a perfect analogy by any means, God represents the judge who must uphold the law. But he is also the compassionate friend who loves the criminal. This is effectively what happened through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Because we are guilty of sin, God had to judge us. However, in his love, God came to earth as Jesus, the Son of God and took the punishment that was meant for us. He chose to pay the penalty on behalf of us.
Laying one’s life down for a friend
In the Elementary season 6 finale, Sherlock faced a similar dilemma. He wanted to be compassionate towards his friend Gregson and his daughter Hannah, but he also knew that someone had to pay for the crime otherwise the FBI would never stop investigating. They would either arrest Hannah or pin the blame on Joan. Holmes therefore decided, like Jesus, to take the blame himself and let the other two go free.
At the end of the episode, Sherlock also revealed that he made the sacrifice because Joan was his friend. He didn’t call people friends lightly, as it took him a while to really feel that level of trust with another person. When he first came to New York in season 1, he was a recovering heroin addict. Joan acted as his sober companion, someone who would be there by his side through thick and thin to see him through that addiction. Following that, as the series progressed, he taught her everything he knew about the detective business so that, as his apprentice, she learnt from the master sleuth.
Holmes admitted that she helped turn him around and saved his life. Now he was doing the same and saving her life instead. He revealed that they were more than just partners, but friends and two people who love each other. Holmes did not mean this in any romantic way, but in a purely platonic way, as the series creators have firmly established that there is no romantic connection between the two of them.
He loved her in a true love sort of way where he would lay down his life for her.
Jesus says in John 15:13-15
13 “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
Like Sherlock Holmes, Jesus also calls us friends and lays his life down for us. He knows we have sinned and fallen short and rightly deserve the punishment. However, he also has compassion and love for us and would rather take the blame and bear the punishment himself than allow us to suffer for it.
Of course, both the Sherlock Holmes analogy and the one Nicky Gumbel mentions in his book or on the Alpha course are not perfect, and if we stretch them too far, they can break down. But they can help us understand the deep love our Father God has for us and the sacrifice of His Son Jesus.
To read other helpful analogies of Jesus’ sacrifice, you can also check out this post I’ve written on why Jesus’ death and resurrection are important for us.
Just as Jesus laid his life down for each one of us, he calls us to lay our lives down for him. That may not necessarily mean physically dying as such. However, it does mean putting him first and leaving our life in his hands. When we do so and ask him to be the Lord of our life, we are effectively laying our own lives down at his feet.
Jesus also calls us to love each other with the same kind of sacrificial love. In John 13:34-35 he says:
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
You can read more about loving one another and the other one another statements by checking out my post here.
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Finally, do you think Sherlock Holmes should have sacrificed himself in that way? Have you ever done anything where you’ve sacrificed something or yourself for a friend or family member?
What other examples can you think of that teach you about Jesus’ love and sacrifice for us?
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Robert is the founder of Drawing on the Word. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Theology and a Master’s degree in Systematic Theology. He also has a degree in Law and was called to the Bar. Robert previously taught religious studies and was a theology lecturer. He is an artist, musician and writer, and has created a graphic novel version of Luke’s gospel. You can follow him below.