*Spoilers to Naruto*
Zabuza Momochi is a name that is feared across the land. Known as “Demon of the Hidden Mist”, he works for an elite assassination group called Anbu, cutting down anyone that stands in his way. He possesses deadly skill with a long-sword, being an ex-member of the Seven Swordsmen, and is on every hidden village’s bingo book for Class A crimes. He has a bloodlust that cannot be stopped, a thirst for violence that cannot be quenchable, and a heart as cold as a stone. Zabuza Momochi is a man that lives and breaths death, following the name that he was given to him for his murders, bearing the identity of a true demon.
Worst of all, he thoughtlessly takes advantage of a young boy named Haku for his Kakegenkai, a special jutsu passed down a specific clan that can only be used by it’s people. These abilities surpass the normal capabilities of regular ninja and the assassin envisioned great potential in using this for his own benefit. The only thing that Zabuza Momochi saw when he noticed the raggly child curling himself under his shirt in the dead of winter was a tool to be weilded, and he went too far manipulating Haku. The boy grew up devoting his entire life to him, even believing that without his master he would have no purpose. Zabuza used the most intimate part of human existence, life’s meaning, to persuade Haku to become a deadly murderer in order to further his own agenda. Turning an innocent boy into a cold-blooded killer was the worst thing that Zabuza Momochi ever did and even the assassin himself believes that he should be condemned to Hell by the actions.
At episode twelve of Naruto, Zabuza Momochi is hired by a wealthy business tycoon to murder a bridge builder in the Land of Waves so that his sea trade can be protected, a typical assassination job for a ninja of his caliber. The twist however is that the pair face against a group of unexpected enemies from the Hidden Leaf Village: Kakashi, Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura. Team Seven was hired for the sole purpose of protecting the bridge builder and a conflict of interests creates a long, ruthless fight to the end.
Looking at all that Zabuza Momochi has done in his life, commiting hundreds of murders and ruining the innocence and life of Haku, he should never have any possible chance to redeem himself. This man, according to the natural punishments for his actions, should be executed without question and given a tortuous death. However it appears that the exact opposite happens during the end of episode nineteen when he sheds tears for his lost comrade after being brutally scolded by Naruto.
He realizes that he was extremely selfish for making Haku his slave for a dream that was intended for the harm of others. He knew that he didn’t even let his companion have a dream of his own; in fact, Haku’s only purpose for living was Zabuza. And after seeing his friend’s gentle heart for sparring Naruto and Sauske from certain death, he was content knowing that God would spare his friend from the punishment of Hell. Zabuza, acting in this contentment, gripped a kunai knife firmly in-between his jagged teeth and dashes towards the business tycoon that so poorly treats Haku’s dead body, slicing him up to pieces with his last bit of strength.
“Your words cut deep… deeper than any blade.”
At these last moments of breath, when Kakashi brought the raggly body of Zabuza and laid it beside his best friend, Zabuza began to warmly remember all the fond memories that they had together. Breathing one last time, Zabuza’s heart had melted right before his death and wished with everything that he had that he could stand by Haku’s side for eternity in heaven. These are his last words.
“You were always at my side, the least I can do is be beside you at the end. I know it cannot be, but I wish I could go to where you have gone. How I wish I could join you Haku.”
As I watched Zabuza’s conversion unfold before my eyes on-screen, another similar story that happened in 36 AD came to mind that had many connections to the deadly assassin, one that comes straight out of the Bible. This story is about “the thief on the cross”, a name given to one of the two men who hung alongside Jesus Christ during crucifixion, one on His right and one on His left. Two of the men were laid waste by the Roman punishment system because of violent crimes they had committed, yet the Prince of Peace was put on display unjustly. This picture of innocence nailed to a tree with blood dripping down his garments provoked many insults from the Roman soldiers and one of the criminals. However, “the thief on the cross” saw perfection right before his eyes and had a sudden heart change similar to Zabuza.
Their feet were nailed together with one long metal piece jotting out of the end of an old tree and their hands were done likewise with their own pieces. All three were forcibly pushing their chests an inch or so above their bodies so that they could breathe one last breath of oxygen. In these moments, three criminals, two condemned and one blameless, are in their dying moments, when a small conversation emerges while insults are being hurled at Jesus Christ.
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him:
“Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
(Luke 23:39-43, NIV)
Wrongdoing or immorality like the crimes that Zabuza and “the thief on the cross” committed are classified by God as sin, and it is based upon His perfect law. It is a rebellion against our creator and selfishly attempts to put ourselves on a plane higher than God. As is the nature of sin, it must be punishable by death and it becomes the destiny of all who partake in it. Humanity has had a sin problem sin the beginning of time and we are sealed to burn in the fire for all of eternity because of wrongdoing that we chose out of our own free will. Once we learn these truths, we understand the same condemnation that these two men felt for their crimes, that we are destined to die because of what we have done. Most importnatly, no matter what we do, there is no way to redeem ourselves.
Jesus, the man without sin, blameless in all, promised eternal life and heaven to a sinful thief that was being hanged for his crimes. Just like Zabuza Momochi, “the thief on the cross” deserved the punishment that he was receiving and even admits it himself. He knows that his murders, thefts, and violent acts cannot be undone and that he accepts his fate burning in the fires of Hell forever. Yet in the midst of this Jesus reaches out and changes the man’s heart, giving him full access to heaven that a perfect, blameless man would have.
Kakashi-sensei, after witnesses Zabuza take his last moments alive, mentions that maybe, just maybe, there is a place for him to spend with Haku after all, that they will be together forever. “Demon of the Hidden Mist”, an assassin his entire life, and a cruel man who manipulated a purposeless child to achieve more bloodshed, is perfect before the sight of God? Jesus Christ says the same to all who accept His sacrifice no matter how far they have gone or strayed from righteousness. Liars, murderers, thieves, prostitutes, prideful, and the sinners will all be honored and considered blameless for their actions before God the Father if they have made the decision to let Jesus take their burden off of their shoulders.
“For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” (Romans 10:10, NIV)
Every sinner who lives a life apart from Jesus Christ, no matter how far gone they are, always can return to the embrace of the Father! Zabuza Momochi and “the thief on the cross” had the chance at salvation only minutes before their deaths, and any person who has the same genuine heart change towards grace has the same opportunity. No sin can ever separate you from God’s love and no crime can ever pull you away from Him.