It's been years since I watched Saving Private Ryan, but the end bugs me. Captain Miller (Tom Hanks' character) says to Private Ryan as he dies, "Earn this!" Then it flashes forward to Ryan as an old man asking his wife if he was a good man, then crying at Miller's grave.
My question is, did Ryan cry at Millers grave because he remembered with gratitude that Miller had laid down his life to save him? Or was he crushed by the burden of those last words? Would anything he ever did be good enough (unless he laid down his life for someone else) to deserve what Miller had done?
When Jesus laid down his life for us, he never said "Earn this!" He said, "Remember me, remember this, until I come again." Maybe the difference sounds subtle, but I think it is huge. We can never earn the gift Jesus gave us, we shouldn't even think of trying. But we can remember all our lives that Jesus laid down his life for us, and now wants to give us his life to live through us.