On the bridge at Khazad-Dum, the Fellowship’s greatest fear came to bear, as they faced an enemy so great that it eliminated the presence of their great leader, Gandalf, from their group. Though they believed Gandalf’s supposed death to be in vain, they had no idea how important his death really was.
In the mines of Moria, the group was faced with many obstacles. Upon realizing the death of Balin, the Mine’s last king, they were ambushed by a group of goblins from beneath the mountain. This goblin ambush was only the front-end of a brutal assault that barreled toward them, led by one of the great evils of their world – a Balrog. Balrog’s were corrupted by Morgoth ages before the Fellowship set out, and had been part of the evil alliance for centuries. They went into hiding after the defeat of their forces in the First Age, but this particular Balrog was awoken by the dwarves greed. Balrog’s where both flame and shadow, though their flame was more internal, which is much different than recent film adaptations. Their power and terror was seldom matched in the world of Middle Earth.
Gandalf knew this. He felt the presence of the Balrog near the tomb of Balin, and realized then that the party was in grave danger. It attempted to counter Gandalf’s protection spells, almost destroying Gandalf in the process. Though Aragorn wished to stay behind and fight (like a true warrior) he was simply told, “Swords are of no use here. This foe is beyond any of you.” Gandalf took a stand on the bridge, his party safely behind him. In the end, both he and the Balrog fell countless feet into the deeps. To the Fellowship, this was certain doom for their leader and their friend.
In reading this, one can gain a much better picture of what Christ’s disciples must have been feeling. Like Gandalf alluded often to a future testing, so did Christ allude to his future death. His disciples, being naïve, hadn’t taken that information to heart from their leader. They knew Jesus was a man that trouble seemed to follow, but it was must have seemed improbable to them that anyone could ever actually kill him. They knew that Jesus wasn’t just a man, he was God in the flesh.
They were right, to a point. Jesus was not killed against his will. However, when the time came, he willingly gave himself up to the authorities. Peter drew his sword (like a true warrior) and attacked one of Christ’s captors. Jesus, a man of great compassion, put the ear backed in the place he originally placed it, and in essence, said to Peter, “Swords are of no use here. This foe is beyond any of you.”
What Jesus did on the cross for the sins of his people is beyond any sword or warrior’s ability to overcome. He faced an enemy that was nearly as old as time. The enemy was not flesh and blood, but was shadow and fire. His death once-for-all shined a light into the darkness of our sin, and quenched the fires of Hell by allowed his people, who deserved Hell, to spend an eternity with him in heaven. His foes – sin and death – still are beyond the efforts of the best Christian people around. Even their wonderful works, Bible-reading plans, church attendance, and prayer regiments won’t save them. Only the shed blood of Jesus can save the sinner.
Gandalf paid the ultimate price, but his death was not in vain. All of Middle-Earth would benefit from the destruction of the Balrog, and later from Gandalf’s return. He laid down his life for his friends and in doing so he showed his great love for them. John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Isn’t it great that Jesus calls us, his people, his friends.