To compare anything at all to Jesus Christ might be an exercise in futility at best, but under the circumstances I will try my best to meet the challenge. In the second chapter of Philippians, Paul writes that Jesus “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.” In other words, as the Nicene Creed declares, Jesus is “very God of very God, begotten not created, of one substance with the Father,” Jesus laid aside his equality with God, his union with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the triune Godhead, even though he had every right not to lay it aside.
Instead, Paul tells us later in the passage, Jesus Christ “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” In other words, in some sense Jesus put aside his own will and privileges as God the Son, and emptied himself, becoming fully human while still somehow being fully God.
Now I don’t think we will ever fully penetrate this mystery this side of heaven, and maybe not even hereafter. And certainly Utsugi Lenka of GOD EATER bears only a passing resemblance at best to Jesus Christ. But living as he does in a dystopian future in which biomolecular engineering has gone horribly wrong and produced gigantic armored beasts that have devoured the majority of humanity, and in which the remainder of humanity depends on a few with the supernatural ability to meld with bizarre weapons with the capacity to defeat the so-called Aragami, Lenka repeatedly states that all he wants is to “become stronger in order to protect everyone.”
Never mind that this phrase is such a trope in anime that we are all rolling our eyes, and to some extent justifiably so. Never mind also that, after being abandoned as an infant (or perhaps being somehow spared after his parents were both devoured by the Aragami?), and after he loses his adoptive parents and older sister one at a time, he remains resolute. Upon discovering that he tests positive for having the hidden ability to fight Aragami, Lenka could have slunk away into obscurity, choosing to look after only himself — and I doubt many of us would have blamed him.
But instead, Lenka emptied himself. Not of divinity of course, for he never had that to begin with. But he did empty himself of any plans, any desires, any future to which he might have laid claim. And in this extremely narrow sense only, I am comfortable comparing Lenka with Jesus Christ. In pretty much every other way, Lenka falls short — but then again, so would anyone.
So as we approach Easter, let’s remember that Jesus emptied himself for our sakes, but not only that. He also, as Paul states later in Philippians 2, became obedient even to the point of death on a cross, also for our sakes — and rose from the dead on the third day to claim victory over human sin, and over death itself.
The Lord is risen indeed!