Jesus as Warrior: A Reflection

Therefore, take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  (Ephesians 6:13)

The Easter season is a time of reflection and, as the season moves forward, those reflections can move away from oneself to Jesus. In any deliberation, regardless of topic, it is hard for me to start out and not place myself in the process since that is where my thoughts tend to start. 

Wars

Various careers over the years involved me in many so-called wars – the war on communism, the war on drugs, the war on crime and delinquency, the war on inactivity and the war on the neglect and squandering of nature. These “wars“ can be seen as conflicts to be confronted and “defeated”. In that context, for better or for worse, I have had to develop a warrior attitude about what I perceive as injustice or evil.

The image of Jesus so often portrayed in Scripture, in art, and in homilies is that of one who will bring peace and mercy unto the world. While all that is true, I believe there is also a “warrior” side to Jesus Christ that is exhibited in Scripture from the very start of his ministry to his passion and resurrection.

Jesus the Warrior

I like to think of Jesus as a warrior, but of a different kind. In reflecting on the various Gospel narratives where Jesus confronts the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes it can appear at times (such as in Matt 23:12) that Jesus is a spiritual warrior in a new type of “war”. We especially see him as a warrior from Lenten Sunday mass readings where he confronts Satan in the desert in Mark 1:12-13 and cleanses the temple of the moneychangers in John 2: 13-25. In thinking about his words, it appears that he is not so much at war with people, as with their sins of arrogance, temptation, indifference, irreverence and contradiction between words and deeds. While he preaches peace and mercy, he is not shy about confronting what needs to be challenged. I am reminded of the words of Isaiah 42:13:

The LORD will go forth like a hero, like a warrior he stirs up his ardor; He shouts out his battle cry, against the enemies he shows his might

Jesus’ Real War

So what was the real war he fought and for which he had to pay such a high price? I think it can be summed up as the war on sin and its consequences – death. Because he was a willing warrior, we can now enjoy the benefits of his victory, a victory that enables us to overcome our sinfulness, to defeat death and to spend eternity with him. Sin and death are formidable foes. Focusing on Jesus’s passion brings to life the awesome “war” that he waged. 

At Mass, the other day I was looking up at the massive crucifix we have hanging from the ceiling above the altar of our church and thought of the “wars” he waged. Reflecting on his passion there is no question Jesus approached conflict and pain with the heart of a warrior. In praying the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary the images from the movie The Passion of the Christ bring out in vivid color what he suffered – anxiety, agony, torture, humiliation, abandonment, pain, exhaustion and death. His passion was a warrior’s passion and he endured to be resurrected.

The LORD is a warrior; The Lord is his name.  (Exodus 15:3)