Jesus took the nature of a servant, in order to break the shining wire that waits just ahead for us all.
“I announce with trembling pleasure the appearance of a great story.” So read the London Times in its review of Watership Down (1972).
The story is engaging. British author Richard Adams follows a small group of exiles on a perilous passage from their condemned village to a new home called Watership Down. Along the way we find hard-to-forget scenes. The author gives us much to think about.
Oh. Recall that Watership Down is a story about rabbits.
That’s part of the author’s skill. A rabbit makes for a sympathetic character, if only because he must live among enemies—the cat below and the hawk above to name two out of a thousand. The small scale of a rabbit’s life does not diminish the struggle to survive; it somehow embroiders the whole story.
In one unforgettable chapter, the ragtag traveling band stumbles into an established rabbit community. This warren is delightfully located, roomy, and dry. Danger, which had run alongside them until now, is conspicuous by its absence. The refugees marvel at how big and sleek the newly met rabbits are. Although the visitors are ready for fight or flight, they are invited to stay and settle. Whatever sacrifices there may be are brushed aside with thoughts of the hard life on the trail.
The exiles assimilate—that is, all but one. It’s little Fiver who uneasily suggests that something doesn’t seem right. He has trouble articulating his fear, so the other wayfarers ignore him. The lonely rabbit spends miserable nights in the open while his old comrades find comfort among the grand residents of the splendid new warren.
The weak and discredited rabbit makes the decision to leave. Old acquaintances challenge his plan. There is an ugly farewell scene. After sharp words, one of his former band angrily turns away and runs through a gap in a nearby hedge.
On the other side of that hedge was a wire snare. As the panicky rabbit twisted and tore the ground gasping for breath, everything came into nauseating focus for Fiver. The reason this warren has no enemies is that a farmer drives off all predators. The reason these rabbits are so big is that the farmer puts out food for them. The reason that every so often a rabbit disappears without a trace is that the farmer snares what he wants for his comfort. And here at last is the reason no resident is ever permitted to ask where another rabbit has gone. Only undersized, discredited Fiver spoke clearly and truly: “This warren—it’s nothing but a death hole.”
Something to think about! Does our world distort things in the same way? Is death an unmentionable? One example: abortion. Does the Freedom of Choice Act remove death from the vocabulary and replace it with choice? “It is the policy of the United States that every woman has the fundamental right to choose to bear a child, to terminate a pregnancy after fetal viability when necessary to save the life or health of a woman . . . the government may not interfere with a woman’s right to choose.”
In 36 years since Roe v. Wade there have been 50 million choices. Fifty million gone. Don’t talk of death. It’s choice. Shall we ignore death like so many others?
Jesus became a little one, weak and discredited. He took the nature of a servant in order to break the shining wire that waits just ahead for us all. Tell of his victory even if the entire world angrily disapproves.
Living Hope Lutheran Church, Omaha, NE