Mary Poppins Returns: Echoes of the Gospel?

“The children often can’t believe what Mary Poppins proposes. But she says with a grin, “Everything is possible, even the impossible.” Did not Jesus say something similar? “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matt. 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 18:27).”

(Steven Ingino – The Cripplegate)  Rebooting a classic is never easy. Just read the critics of the new Star Wars series, and you’ll see what I mean. It is always difficult to retain the flavor of a classic while also reshaping it for a modern audience. But, after seeing Mary Poppins Returns with my family, I was surprised by how Disney was able to capture the “magic” of the original, with a new cast, new music, and new plot, some 54 years later.

Even with an incredible star-studded cast, filled with icons such as Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Angela Lansbury, and Dick Van Dyke, as well as Oscar-worthy performances by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ben Whishaw, it seemed nearly impossible for anyone to fill Julie Andrew’s shoes.

Yet, as Emily Blunt tells us as the “new” Mary Poppins, “Everything is possible, even the impossible.” Blunt captures the regal looks, facial expressions, voice, and mannerisms of Andrews in a remarkable fashion. But, the strength of this visual masterpiece is not the impeccable acting, whimsical music, nor the outstanding cinematography and CGI. It is the echo of the gospel, woven throughout the movie.

Call it common grace, call it the longing of all human hearts made in the image of God, call it the vestiges of our Judeo-Christian culture or God’s providence, or any combination of the above – Mary Poppins Returns has so many (unwitting?) allusions to Scripture, an entire book could be written on it. Despite Hollywood’s often antagonistic stance toward God’s Word and the gospel, certain truths just can’t be suppressed.

It goes without saying that Jesus is not a 20th century nanny with peculiar powers, a passion for Edwardian etiquette, and a penchant for tidying up toiletries. Yet Mary Poppins Returns begins with a scene reminiscent of a renaissance painting portraying the return of Christ, gloriously coming down to earth from beyond the clouds.

The Reality of a Return

Mary Poppins’ return is messianic (with a lower case “m”!). The Banks family is broken and battered. Through sin and death, their world, like ours, is torn and tattered. But the children know that their best hope comes from a savior who will descend to earth, fix what is broken, right wrongs, and help others to see the world as it should be seen. No, there is no resurrection of the dead or a reversal of the curse, but the return of Mary Poppins ushers in time of blessing and peace that only a savior from the heavens could bring. The opening music tells us:

Have a pot of tea, mend your broken cup

There’s a different point of view awaiting you

If you would just look up…

Listen, soon the slump will disappear, it won’t be long

Sooner than you think you’ll hear some bright new song

So, hold on tight to those you love and maybe soon from up above

you’ll be blessed so keep on looking high

while you’re underneath the lovely London sky

The first Mary Poppins movie ends with her ascension, and the second takes off when she returns to right the wrongs that have cropped up in her absence. As God is a father to the fatherless (Ps. 68:5), Mary Poppins is a mother to the motherless. Her return helps Michael Bank’s children who lost their mother the previous year. View article →