I own far too many movies on DVD. So, I’ve been attempting to sort them out, give some to my kids, donate a few, and put the rest in some sort of order on a shelf. This task has landed me on the couch watching an oldie-but-goodie flick more than once in the past couple of weeks. Last night, it happened to be Saving Private Ryan, which was one of my sons’ favorites. My youngest son, Ian, always called it, “Save it, Private Ryan!” I’d just laugh and squeeze him.
If you’re not familiar with the movie, its about a platoon of U.S. soldiers who go behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action, and bring him home from the war. Captain Miller, played by Tom Hanks, leads the platoon, and dies from gunshot wounds sustained during his rescue of Private Ryan, who eventually makes it home safely. Just before Captain Miller dies, he pulls Private Ryan closely so that he can hear him speak his last words to Private Ryan.
He says, “EARN THIS!” When Private Ryan questions him, Captain Miller repeats, “EARN IT!” He then closes his eyes and dies.
The ending of this movie has never left me as breathless as it did last night. I am always looking for examples of grace in this crazy world. The end of this movie portrays exactly the OPPOSITE of grace, so I am hoping to be able to point to the Gospel through this polar opposite example of it!
When someone does something nice for you, it is common courtesy (or at least, it was back in MY day), to send a thank you note.
If someone picks up a shift for you at work, the etiquette is that you would, in turn, pick up one of their shifts. When a neighbor shovels your snow, perhaps some warm home-made banana bread would be a nice gesture. You get the picture.
But poor Private Ryan probably spent the next decades of his life trying to live up to what the man who saved his life had given him the responsibility to do – earn that! How exactly would he do that? When would he know that debt was paid up? That he had done enough to have earned his life, at the cost of Captain Miller’s? My guess is, he would never know. The truth is, we don’t usually do things without some self-motivating expectation, do we? I mean, just look up three paragraphs and take note of my sarcastic comment about thank you notes. Obviously, people have disappointed me by not being more expressive in their appreciation of my good deeds. LOL
Now, let’s talk about the last words of Jesus. (You didn’t think I was going to leave the GOSPEL out of this blog post now, did you? 😉
Unlike the demands made by Captain Miller, the last words of Jesus were, “IT IS FINISHED!” He didn’t holler out, “EARN THIS!” like Captain Miller did. But if He had, what exactly would you do to earn what Jesus went through on the Cross for you and I? How many good deeds would be sufficient? How many services would you have to attend before you would “earn it?” How many days a week would you have to work at the soup kitchen, how much money would you have to donate, how many mission trips would you have to take, how many Masses would you have to pay to have said, or how many would you have to attend? What would be the the price for the life of Jesus?
There is no answer, because there is no cost for us. It’s been paid already – IN FULL! “IT IS FINISHED!” Jesus died.
He died the death we deserve so that we would not have to.
He paid the price we would never be able to pay and took the punishment for our sins that we would never have been able to endure.
It is FINISHED! There is NO REASON to try to EARN it. You can’t. But the good news is – YOU DON’T HAVE TO!
You need only to believe it, and ask Him to be the Lord and Savior of your life. He will redeem you, He will forgive you, He will transform you, and make you a brand new creation. His Word says so. Take Him at His Word today. Give Him your life, and follow Him!
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17