One of my favorite movies of all time is Saving Private Ryan. The film tells the story of a group of soldiers who land on Omaha Beach as part of the Normandy Invasion during World War II. After suffering heavy losses in the invasion, Captain John Miller (played by Tom Hanks) is tasked with gathering a group of men to find and save Private James Ryan, who was somewhere near Normandy. Private Ryan’s three brothers had already died. As was the policy at that time, the final Ryan brother was to be saved for the sake of preserving the Ryan family. Captain Miller corralled seven of his men, and (spoiler alert) they saved Private Ryan.
The focus of the story is the work of many brave men to save one man. In the incarnation and the gospel, the greatest and most powerful story of all time, the focus of the good news is the work of one man, Jesus, to save many men and women who are unable to save themselves. In both the film and the incarnation, the acts of salvation are not standalone nor are they devoid of any greater context. In Saving Private Ryan, a man is saved in the greater context of a worldwide war that is meant to stop evil from taking over. In the incarnation and gospel of Jesus Christ, God becomes man to save His people in the greater context of a war with the devil himself.
Ever since the garden of Eden, Scripture has made clear that God will defeat Satan in the salvation plan He is carrying out for His people. Let’s be clear: Satan is not an equal, malevolent version of God. Satan is like a rebellious peasant to a King when compared to the God of the universe. God Himself says as much to Satan, the serpent: “I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15). This is both a declaration and a promise, and God makes good on it with the incarnation of His Son, Jesus Christ.
The apostle John tells us, “The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the devil’s works” (1John 3:8). This is a powerful statement, isn’t it? It is easy to think of the gospel and the incarnation of Jesus in hyper-personal, almost selfish terms. It’s easy to focus on how we benefit from Jesus coming to earth, while ignoring the greater implications.
God sending Jesus to become man was an act of war against Satan, make no mistake. God does not play gently with those who rebel against Him, whether Satan or anyone else. God has defeated Satan in the sending of His Son for our salvation. Let’s make war against Satan ourselves in how we follow Jesus and tell others about Him. The incarnation and our salvation are part of a much larger story. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens” (Ephesians 6:12). Let’s not forget that.
Written by Chris Martin