Summary: As in the movie Saving Private Ryan Captain Miller had to ask himself...."for whom or what would I give my life" Pvt James Ryan at the end of his life asked..."Have I been a good man?" These are life questions we all must ask. Stephen answered the ques
In Jesus Holy Name August 2, 2009
Acts 6:7-15, 7:55-58
“The Unavoidable Question” Part V
In the movie “Saving Private Ryan” the opening scene shows an old man walking down a wide path through a colonnade of evergreens. He has a full head of gray hair; He wears a light blue windbreaker over a golf shirt. His gait is quick but stiff. Behind him trail his family. His wife is the closest, his son and daughter-in-law step or two farther behind, bracketing their children.
When he finally turns to his right, he steps onto a vast lawn lined with thousands of white crosses that extend toward the horizon. Here and there a Jewish star adds to the procession of markers that contrast starkly against the green sward.
James Ryan’s determined march finally halts in front of a particular cross. Here it is, his captain’s cross, the name, the date: Captain John W. Miller, June 13, 1944.
He speaks a few words, notes that he is alright. For him this visit to the Normandy American Cemetery is no sight seeing tour. There is an unspoken question that has dogged him all his life. The unspoken question brought him here. You hear him ask his wife…”Have I been a good man?”
The scene now shifts to the beach landings at Normandy and how Captain Miller was requested to begin a search for James Ryan. You see, Captain Miller and his squad did find Ryan with the remnants of 506 Baker Company. They had orders to secure a bridge. Captain Miller’s squad stayed to help protect the bridge. The German’s soon came with a company of men and two Panzer tanks and two Tigers. The Battle raged. Captain Miller’s squad and the remnants of the 506 were unable to stop the advance. Captain Miller’s squad retreated to the other side of the bridge. Several man were hit and collapsed. Captain Miller took a shot beneath his ribs as he struggle to fix the wiring on a detonation device. Suddenly a British Tankbuster air craft flew in and blew up the tanks. Of the squad that came to find Private Ryan only two men escaped relatively unscathed. In the final moments before Miller died. Ryan heard these words from the lips of Captain Miller: “James. Earn this….earn it.”
Not everyone experiences what James Ryan did in such a dramatic way….we all have life questions….”is there purpose in my life?” James Ryan wants to know if his life has been worthy of the sacrifice of Captain Miller and the other men who gave their lives for his. As the family leaves the cemetery James Ryan turns to his wife and asks: “Am I a good man?”
Does there exist an exact way of calculating the answer to this question? What makes the good we do good enough?# Is our life worth the sacrifice of others? Has my life been important, valuable to family and community?
But there is another more important question that Captain Miller had to ask himself and his squad. The question shows itself in the drama that unfolds as the squad searches for Private James Ryan. This is the other question. Are you willing to sacrifice your own life to save one? (pause) For whom would you die? Your child, your spouse, a friend? What cause would be big enough for you to be willing to sacrifice your own life?
If you go to Switzerland, they will tell you the story of Arnold Von Winkeiried who, at the Battle of Sempach, grabbed a host of Austrian spears, pulled them into his chest and allowed his comrades to break the enemy lines and win the battle. If you speak to a member of the native American tribe, The Cheyenne, they will tell you of a 15 year old Dog Soldier named Little Hawk. On July 11 1869 at Summit Springs, Colorado, his village was attacked. Little Hawk had a chance to escape. Instead of saving himself, Little Hawk stood fast, and through his bravery he allowed the escape of many women and children. Remembering his death, someone said, “he threw his life away for the People, as a brave man should.
On December 4th 2006 an enemy grenade landed in the Humvee where PFC Ross McGinnis was manning a machine gun. McGinnis could have jumped. He didn’t. Instead he used his back to smother the explosive. The President of the U.S. gave a posthumous Medal of Honor to the private’s parents. At that ceremony he said, “America will always honor the name of this brave soldier who gave his all for his country.”
Jesus is also a man who lived in history and willingly gave up his life, suffered death on a Roman cross so that all who would believe in him would live. The apostle Paul wrote: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”