|A devotional I read recently reminded me of the last scenes of the movie “Saving Private Ryan.” I must admit that I have never seen the whole film. I found it too violent to watch without skipping major portions. (Particularly the opening scenes.) I watched enough to catch the gist of it. In some ways it is the classic story of sacrifice. The movie places a platoon of soldiers on a rescue mission, searching for the title character Private Ryan. Their leader thinks it’s a fool’s errand.
As the costs mount and soldiers sacrifice themselves for Ryan, you feel their frustration. Traveling along, the viewer is left to ask is this worth it? Why is one life so important? The movie comes into tight focus at the end. Captain Miller who is giving his last breath to the mission, realizing the outsized price that has been paid speaks. He says to the young private, “Earn this, James, earn this.” With his dying breath he challenges the young man to live a life worthy of such sacrifice. Nearly an entire platoon has lost their lives to rescue this one man, the last heir of an American family name.
I watched the end again and my eyes flooded with tears as James Ryan now an elderly grandfather stands at Miller’s grave desperately asking his wife to tell him he is a good man. All of us live with the certainty of our failures. We know that most of our best actions are tainted with mixed motives and we ache to know we are good enough.
The Bible comes to a moment just like this one. We have followed the cast of heroes who died to keep this mission moving forward. The reader has come to know their names and is reminded of how many there were prophets and patriarchs; self sacrificing followers of God on a mission to rescue mankind. At last the promise meets its heroic fulfillment in Jesus. Like Captain Miller, the Bible quietly focuses our attention, the darkness and taunting of the war fade to the background and the Messiah speaks.
Jesus, like Captain Miller, knows the extravagant price being paid for humanity and He says, “It is finished.”
Everything necessary to save man has been completed. No more price need be paid. No human can possibly earn this. The bill is stamped “Paid in Full!”
The most important difference in Christianity is that God died for man. All He asks of us is that we accept His gift.