In episode 9 of Angel Beats, Otonashi finally remembers hows he died. We see the subway crash he was involved in. We see him underground, trapped with others who were on the subway with him. We see him serving as a leader to the survivors. We see him, in the end, die.
To his final breath, Otonashi was serving others. The moment he awoke from the crash he used what little first aid skills he had to help others. After tending to all the wounds, Otonashi worked with the others to round up all the supplies. He tried to lead the survivors by remaining calm. It worked. He tended to everyone’s wounds day by day. When one of the men went crazy and tried to steal everyone’s supplies, others got violent trying to beat down the thief. Otonashi stopped the violence, calmed them down, and offered to use fewer rations so others would still have what they needed after some of it was destroyed in the squabble. This was not a selfish little teenager, but a man putting everyone ahead of himself. In the end, he died actively choosing to donate his organs just as they finally were freed from the subway tunnel.
Otonashi may not know it, but his actions reflected Christ in so many ways. Let us begin first with his forgiveness of the thief. Imagine the scene. A group of people are scared following a subway accident. Huddled together underground, a teenager comes to their aid as a leader of sorts ensuring rations are being kept tightly so everyone survives. One in the group steals everything trying to run for it, even though there is not a place to run to. He falters. He is stopped. People get angry and begin to beat him. Then the teenager, Otonashi walks over to the scene. He calms the violent people. He forgives the thief. The thief falls to his knees crying. He never stole from the group while they were down there after that point. Where have I seen that before? John 8:2-11.
In this passage, an adulteress is caught in the act. The people are rallied together to stone her to death, asking Christ what to do. Does He cast the first stone? No. He calms the crowd and says, “He who is without sin may cast the first stone.” In the end, the only one who can cast stones, Himself, chose not to do so. In the case of Otonashi and the thief, he had every right to be angry, to retaliate even – but he did not. Instead, he chose to forgive.
One of the other defining attributes of Otonashi through this entire episode is his willingness to serve everyone. He tended to wounds. He withheld supplies from himself, allowing them to be divided instead among the others. This was a form of servant leadership, a kind which we see in the life of Christ (Mark 10:44-45). He reminds us that to be first, we must be willing to be last – to serve others before ourselves. We must put their needs ahead of our own. He does this on numerous occasions, but one which sticks out to me is during the Last Supper when He washed the disciples feet (John 13:1-17). Let us picture the scene. The disciples had been walking barefoot or in sandals for days. This was the end of a long journey and late in the day. They were preparing for a meal. These 12 men sat around the table together with dirty feet, rough and grimy from the roads. Jesus Christ, God made flesh, kneels down before His disciples one at a time. He goes to them with a wash basin and a towel wrapped around His waist. He then scrubs each of their feet, one by one. He then pulls off the towel and dries off their feet. This is the lowliest of jobs left for the servants of servants; yet here is the King of King, Lord of Lords doing this task. Otonashi served and served and served these poor, frightened people with every last breath he had. He then gave his organs to others upon his death, allowing his body to serve others beyond this life. With his death – he gave others life.
Once more, we turn to Christ – who’s death gave us all a new life, a renewed life. In Romans 5:6-11, Paul reminds us of that fact. He reminds us again in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22. We are made new, we are made better in Christ. His death is what saves us – from our sin, from our failure, from the devil, from the old version of us which wants us to be a failure, wants us to stumble. We are alive because of Christ. So too are these people alive because of Otonashi.
While this young man may not have intended to, he serves in a Christ-like role for all those people trapped in the subway. He healed the sick. He kept the peace. He forgave the villain. He provided hope. In the end, he was able to see the people he was serving finally being saved just as he died. He gave his all, making himself less for others. If only we would all follow in this Christ-like example daily.