Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the only book in the series that does not involve Voldemort directly. However, it still has lessons to teach us. There are five lessons that you can learn from Prisoner of Azkaban: to fight evil you must overcome your fears, appearances can be deceiving, trust your friends to help you through the hard times, you have a free will and can choose which path you will walk in life, the world is full of injustice and flaws but you must fight against injustice in the best way you know how.
To fight Evil You Must Overcome Your Fears
Your fears will always hold you back, if you don’t overcome them. We all have fears, but the key to be successful in life is being able to overcome your fears. In this book we are introduced to two new entities: boggarts and dementors.
Boggarts are beings that, in the series, change into a persons biggest fear. Harry and his friends new Defense Against Dark Arts, Professor Lupin, use boggarts to teach them to face their fears. This is because the way to defeat boggarts is to overcome your fears, by picturing them in the most ridiculous way possible.
The next entity that we meet are the dementors. These entities guard the “wizard prison” at Azkaban. They, feed off the hope of people. They can only be defeated by a difficult “charm” that requires the person to focus on the one thing that gives them the most hope and joy in life.
The question I’m sure that you are all asking what does hope have to do with overcoming fears? Hope is defined as ” a person or thing that may help or save someone; grounds for believing that something good may happen”. Fear is all about taking away your hope, because without hope you cannot live.
Paul wrote to his young protege Timothy dealing with this very subject. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment” (2 Timothy 1:7 CSB). God did not make us to have a spirit of fear, but he made us to live hope.
How can we live in hope? We can live in hope because we can know the one who has conquered the world. “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world” (John 16:33 CSB)
Remember the words of these gospel songs: “Put your hand in the hand of the man
Who stilled the water
Put your hand in the hand of the man
Who calmed the sea
Take a look at yourself
And you can look at others differently
Put your hand in the hand of the man
From Galilee”. (Put Your Hand in the Hand)
“I Can’t Take A Heart That’s Broken
Make It Over Again
But I Know A Man Who Can
I Can’t Take A Soul That’s Sin Sick
Wash It White As The Snow
But I Know A Man Who Can
Some Call Him Savior, The Redeemer Of All Men
I Call Him Jesus, For He’s My Dearest Friend
If You Feel That No One Loves You
And Your Life Is Out Of Hand
I Know A Man Who Can
I Can’t Walk Upon The Water
Calm The Dark And Raging Sea
But I Know A Man Who Can
I Can’t Cause Blind Eyes To Open
Or Make The Lame To Walk Again
But I Know A Man Who Can” (I Know a Man Who Can)
Appearance Can be Deceiving
This lesson keeps coming up through out the series. It is probably one of the more important lessons we can learn from the Harry Potter series. We meet several characters in Prisoner of Azkaban who first look might appear to be what they are not.
The entire novel is built around Sirius Black and his escape from Azkaban. He is a convicted murder who is believed to have betrayed Harry’s parents to Voldemort. He was, also, Harry’s parents best friend. He is, also, believed to want Harry dead.
However, almost all of these things turn out to not be true. Sirius is Harry’s godfather and actually loves him. He was not the person who betrayed Harry’s parents to Voldemort. All of this shows that you can’t “judge a book by its cover”.
We meet Buckbeak in Haggard’s first lesson as care of magical creatures teacher. He scares everybody in the class because of his strange appearance. However, once everyone in the class comes to know him and the other Hippogriffs they realize that they are only dangerous when provoke. Unfortunately Draco Malfoy provokes Buckbeak and he attacks Malfoy. (We will deal more with this later.)
Scabbers is Ron’s pet rat, who we have briefly met in the Sorcerer’s Stone. In Prisoner of Azkaban we learn more about Scabbers. We learn that he has lived far longer than any ordinary rat and that he has only been in Ron’s family for about 12 years. At the end of the book we learn that Scabbers is just a rat but he is the wizard Peter Petigrew. Petigrew was one of Harry’s parents friends. In fact he was their “secret keeper” and was the one who ultimately betrayed Harry’s parents to Voldemort.
Crookshanks is the cat that Hermione purchases for her birthday. He attacks Ron at the magical pet shop and Ron develops a strong dislike for him. This dislike grows when Ron finds “evidence” that Crookshanks ate Scabbers. This evidence is later proven to be false, because Scabbers is found alive in Haggard’s hut.
Professor Lupin is the new Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher. However, he is hiding a secret. He is a werewolf. This causes everyone, expect Dumbledore, to immediately distrust him. This secret is kept from the students, but Hermione eventual finds out. This information clouds her judgement when it comes to Professor Lupin. However, it is Lupin who taught Harry how to deal with the dementors, who have been constantly causing him problems.
Remember appearances can be deceiving and we are not to judge others based on our own standards.
“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For you will be judged by the same standard with which you judge others, and you will be measured by the same measure you use. Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a beam of wood in your own eye? Hypocrite! First take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.Matthew 7:1-5 (CSB)
Trust Your Friends to Help You When You Need It
True friends will stick with you no matter what the circumstances. We see in Prisoner of Azkaban Harry, Ron and Hermione’s biggest test of their friendship so far. Ron gets so upset with Hermione because he believes Crookshanks ate Scabbers. Hermione is upset with Ron because he is blaming Crookshanks without any evidence. Harry is upset with Hermione because she went to Professor McGonagall about Harry’s new broom, that he received for Christmas from an unknown source. However, this is all forgotten when they have to team up to help Haggard with his defense of Buckbeak.
In the book Exodus we see a perfect example of this. It occurs after the people of Israel have escaped from Egypt and are getting ready to fight their first battle on the their journey to the promised land. Here is the story.
At Rephidim, Amalek came and fought against Israel. Moses said to Joshua, “Select some men for us and go fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the hilltop with God’s staff in my hand.”Exodus 17:8-13 (CSB)
Joshua did as Moses had told him, and fought against Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. While Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, but whenever he put his hand down, Amalek prevailed. When Moses’s hands grew heavy, they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat down on it. Then Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other so that his hands remained steady until the sun went down. So Joshua defeated Amalek and his army with the sword.
We all need friends like Aaron and Hur, who are willing to stand beside us and support us in our time of need.
You have a Free Will and Can Choose Which Path You Will Walk in Life
In this book we meet the Divination teacher, Professor Trelawney. She is not well liked, expect by those who actually believe she can see the future. Harry, Ron and Hermione don’t believe she can see the future. Hermione becomes so digested with her that she actually drops Divination.
Professor Trelawney predicts very early on that Harry will die. This is because she sees something that looks like an omen of death while reading Harry’s tea leaves. The reason she is able to get away with such nonsense is because most of her students are so worried about the future that we will believe anything or anyone that tells them anything about the future.
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.1 John 4:1 (CSB)
You must remember the future is not fixed. God has given you a free will. You, therefore, have the ability to choose the paths that your life will take.
You, also, must remember to test anything that hear or read against what you know and against what God is telling you.
“Therefore I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Consider the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Can any of you add one moment to his life-span by worrying? And why do you worry about clothes? Observe how the wildflowers of the field grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t he do much more for you — you of little faith? So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat? ’ or ‘What will we drink? ’ or ‘What will we wear? ’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.Matthew 6:25-34 (CSB)
The World is Full of Injustices and Flaws, but You must Fight against Injustice in the Best Way You know How
Throughout the series we have seen the injustices and flaws within the “wizarding” world. However, in Prisoner of Azkaban we come face to face with them and our three friends must decide what they are going to do about the injustices and flaws in the “wizarding” world.
The first injustice we encounter is Harry not being expelled from Hogwarts for using magic while underage. Harry is not expelled because he is Harry Potter. The rules of the “wizarding” world clearly state that he should have been at the very least expelled, because he already been warned about using magic outside of school.
The second injustice we encounter involves Buckbeak. Remember that earlier we said that Buckbeak would not attack unless provoked and that Malfoy provoked him. Malfoy complained to his father, who is in a position of authority within the Ministry of Magic, and Buckbeak is put on trial to determine if he is a dangerous creature. Malfoy’s father uses his influence to get Buckbeak convicted, sentenced to be executed and his appeal to be denied.
The last injustice we encounter involves Sirius Black. Black was convicted of a crime he did not commit. He is able to convince Harry, Ron and Hermione that he is innocent, along Wirth Dumbledore. However, it does no good because the “wizarding” world is not going to listen to the words of three “underage” wizards, who have a history of causing trouble and have actually attacked a teacher.
Harry, Ron and Hermione have a choice. They can do nothing and sit on their hands while all this injustices happen or they can choose to fight injustice in the best means they know how to. Through the help of a “time turner”, a device that allows the owner to turn back time. Harry and Hermione are able to save Buckbeak and Sirius. Why? Because it was the right thing to do even though it was a violation of the law (man’s law, not God’s law).
As citizens of the world we have a duty to fight injustice and corruption. We have a duty to obey the laws of the place we live, but only if they do not violate God’s law.
Mankind, he has told each of you what is goodMicah 6:8 (CSB)
and what it is the Lord requires of you:
to act justly,
to love faithfulness,
and to walk humbly with your God.
This is our call if we clam to be citizens of God’s kingdom. And it is the most important lesson we learn from Prisoner of Azkaban. Conquering your fears through Christ gets you started. Not judging others helps you along the road. Trusting your friends helps you to walk through life, but the true test of what you believe comes when you have to take a stand. We will see more and more of Harry, Ron, Hermione and their friends taking stands for what they believe as we move forward through the rest of the books.