Naruto and Sasuke: Hope, Love’s Longsuffering…

1 Corinthians 13:7 NLT  “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance

The villagers of Konoha are prejudiced against Naruto because he carries the Nine-tail Fox within himself. Naruto isn’t told about the fox and Naruto becomes a kind of pariah. There is a sense of loneliness, a sense of being  ” despised and rejected by men” ( Isaiah 53:3 Prophecy about the Suffering Servant, Jesus)  Sasuke suffers from loneliness too.  His family and clan die at the hands of his older brother Itachi, leaving him an orphan. In a way Team Seven becomes a kind of surrogate family for both Naruto and Sasuke.  Sasuke and Naruto fight like two brothers.  While going through their training they begin to respect each other. Though the surface tension is a competitive spirit, deep down they share one thing in common, their painful loneliness, which is the very basis for their friendship. Whereas Naruto’s loneliness leads him to relate better to others,  Sasuke’s loneliness, and his painful loss gives birth to revenge.  His revenge, for a time, is restrained by his Ninja training and his friendship with the other members of Team 7.  However an encounter with his older brother Itachi reignites his desire for revenge.

After healing from a quick defeat at Itachi’s hands, Sasuke turns to the snake-man Orochimaru( which has so many Satan parallels) for power to accomplish his revenge.   Naruto tries to stop Sasuke from going to Orochimaru and thus a fight ensues.  I find so many parallels here in how we deal with those who have rejected us and have become our enemies, whether family or friends and the sense of betrayal. Naruto reflects the impulsive foolishness of our gut level response (anger or rage seems to step in when we are in pain). Naruto declares that he will use force to make his friend return. Sasuke intends to kill Naruto remembering Itachi’s words about how killing his best friend will lead to greater power.

Conversations always seem to happen in the midst of a fight in Japanese Anime and Naruto is no exception. There are more than fists flying at the Valley of the End.  Naruto is covered in a bijuu chakra cloak and Sasuke asks, “What are you?” Naruto replies “I’m your friend”.  Sasuke: “Why…..?   Why do you waste so much effort on me?” Naruto:”Because for me you were a part of my family.”

We see a moment just  after Naruto loses the fight; Sasuke can’t bring himself to kill an unconscious Naruto!  Naruto’s words and unrelenting pursuit of friendship  touched Sasuke!

Sasuke leaves Naruto and disappears into the forest.  Kakashi arrives and carries Naruto back to Konoha for medical attention.  Jirayia shows up at the hospital where Naruto is recuperating from his fight with Sasuke. Jirayia tells him that wisdom means giving up on Sasuke ( Jirayia remembering his failure with Orochimaru). His response to Jirayia is that “if that’s what wisdom is then I will be a fool the rest of my life”.

Jiraiyia convinces Naruto to delay his search for Sasuke until he is better trained. 3 years of intense training go by fueled by Naruto’s desire to save Sasuke from Orochimaru

Three years  later in Shippuden

Konoha tracks down one of Orochimaru’s hideouts .  Yamato as team Leader and an unknown ANBU named Sai will accompany Sakura and Naruto to investigate.  Sai was sent to kill Sasuke but changes his mind because of Naruto’s determination and passion for his former teammate.  Sasuke and Naruto finally see each other after 3 years.  Yamato says that Team Kakashi will be taking Sasuke back to Konoha. “There must be a reason Naruto and Sakura have pursued you so desperately! They are giving their all to secure those bonds” Sai says to Sasuke.   “I have different Bonds”  once again.  Naruto asks “why didn’t you kill me?” Sasuke: “ for my own reasons, a passing whim” a kind of emotional dodge  and denial of  the truth. Sasuke condescendingly chastises Naruto for pursuing him and not training more to be Hokage. “No way can a guy who can’t save a friend become Hokage. Isn’t That right Sasuke?”  To prove that leaving Naruto alive meant nothing, Sasuke tells Naruto that he will kill him on a whim.  After a brief Skirmish with Team Kakashi. Sasuke disappears with Orochimaru.

Orochimaru attempts his  dark plan to consume Sasuke ( 1 Peter 5:8 Devil looking for someone to consume!) and possess his body but Sasuke defeats him, steals part of his power and chases down Itachi.  Itachi’s death doesn’t satisfy Sasuke‘s revenge.  He seeks the destruction of Konoha and the leaders who ordered the death of his clan. This time he turns to Tobi, a mysterious figure who manipulates from the shadows, for power.

Episode 214-215 comes into the story just after Sasuke has just finished killing Danzo,  a Village Elder involved in ordering the destruction of the Sasuke’s family and clan.  Sakura attempts to kill Sasuke and is saved by Naruto and Kakashi when Sasuke nearly kills her.   Sasuke exhausted from his fight with Danzo is protected by Zetsu who then retrieves reinforcements in the form of Tobi/Madara.   The arrival of Tobi creates a standoff between Kakashi  Naruto and Sakura  on one side and Tobi, Zetsu and a tired Sasuke on the other…   A conversation comes out of this “stalemate”, Naruto recounts their time together, memories of their shared experiences and suffering and how he always looked up to him…

Naruto: I’m glad I met you.  Sasuke: Nothing you say is going to change me. I’m still going to kill everyone in Konoha.  Sasuke: Either Kill me and be the Hero that saved the village or I’ll kill you and you’ll be known as the Loser.  Naruto rejects both options. Naruto declares that they will die together in battle that, he’s willing to bear the brunt of Sasuke’s hate and die with him. (Jesus Christ bearing the brunt of the hatred of his own people through the Cross?)

Sasuke: What the hell do you want?!! Why are you so fixated on me?

Naruto : Because I’m your friend!

Sasuke’s is taken aback and descends into melancholy by Naruto’s unrelenting perseverance.  His moment of sadness feels like an eternity.  Naruto makes Sasuke pause in his singleminded search for revenge.  Sasuke however “comes to his senses” tells Naruto that he will kill him first and then the rest of Konoha. Kakashi steps up feeling that it’s his responsibility, that it’s his fault that Sasuke has become dangerous and feels Sasuke can’t be save.  It’s a dirty job but someone’s gotta do it. Someone has to kill Sasuke.

Kakashi:  I’ll take care of Sasuke.  You have to protect your precious dream of being Hokage.

Naruto: How can I become Hokage if I can’t even save one friend?

Many of the Naruto’s friends and teachers consider Naruto’s unwillingness to give up on his friend as foolishness..   There might be too heavy of a burden Naruto sets on himself, believing that only he can bring Sasuke back. However his unwillingness to be discouraged into thinking Sasuke is unredeemable, or too far gone is a matter of hope. The Bible is very clear on is Jesus who calls us to love our Enemies, who asks forgiveness for his enemies from the Cross, and returns to his disciples, those who betrayed and abandoned him.

Naruto shows how faithfulness in times of betrayal is one of the greatest reflections of the cross. Hosea and his prostitute wife, God’s relationship to Israel…..i.e. God’s relationship to man…  Obviously faithfulness here doesn’t mean agreeing with everything they do or avoiding the consequences, for Naruto vows to die fighting Sasuke, to protect Konoha his village, stepping between Sasuke and Konoha to thwart his revenge. Naruto is unwilling to kill Sasuke but is willing to die defending his village. I find this an amazing and ultimately moving thought, that Naruto’s faithfulness doesn’t allow his friend to have his revenge.

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