Yep, you guessed it. I made this post just so that I could use that subtitle.
Well, not wholly. Hang on with me a minute – I have something deeper than that to get to.
Most of the 698th chapter of Naruto is spent with our titular character and Sasuke lying next to each other, bleeding to death, going in an out of consciousness. And in this gloomy setting, we get what might could finally be Sasuke’s surrender, not just in the final fight to Naruto, but of his will to Naruto, giving in to his friend’s way and finding a measure of peace (only time, the final chapters, and the last movie, though, will tell if he’s reached really that point).
At the very least, Sasuke has found that he cannot accomplish his own will, his way of becoming hokage. Although he sees it as right and merciful, we know that Sasuke’s method is twisted, resembling a dictator willing to go to any means to accomplish goals that would otherwise be laudable. From a superficial sense, though, it seems that both Naruto and Sasuke have equally reasonable methods. They’ve both chosen their way to become hokage. So what makes Naruto’s way better than Sasuke’s? If we must ultimately choose our own paths, how can we dismiss Sasuke’s but praise Naruto’s?
The answer is that Naruto’s way reflects a truth, which is this: love is the right way. Although the culture may tell us that your way is your truth, I disagree. I believe there are certain truths that stand above others, and among those is that love trumps all.
Naruto does what he does out of love for his friends, village, family, and all people in the ninja world. For Sasuke, Naruto will go to the same lengths as with anyone else – he is willing to die if it means saving them. And as he lays bleeding to death at the end of chapter 698, with his right hand missing, Naruto demonstrates as much – that love knows no bounds.
The connection between love, death, and wounds reminds me of the story of Doubting Thomas. You remember how in the Bible, Thomas, one of Jesus’ disciples, is absent when the resurrected Christ visits the other disciples, and not believing that his teacher could possibly be alive, crudely remarks, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).
Jesus later returns to the disciples, Thomas as well as the others, and tells him, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27).
Jesus wasn’t doing what he did to put Thomas in his place – it was far more than that. The wounds proved His claim and demonstrated the lengths He went to for Thomas and for all humanity. The scars on his hand were a proof of hope. They were a proof of love.
Naruto’s missing limb tells us the same – Sasuke, do not be unbelieving, but believing. Believe in the depths of my love. I’ll give anything – my hand, my life – just to save you, because that is how much I love you.
That is love. And of all great things – there is nothing greater.