It’s 1979 Tehran, riots have exploded and radical student Islamists are laying siege of the U.S. embassy, taking 58 employees hostage. Out of the chaos, six employees escape. Enclosed in fear and anxiety, trapped with little hope and ensconced from the enemy in the Canadian ambassador’s house they wait for a saviour. Meanwhile in Washington Tony Mendez, a CIA agent played by Ben Affleck, proposes a plan to rescue the employees that is seemingly so mundane and ordinary that few have faith in it. Yet it is accepted.
Mendez is told by his boss that ”The whole country is watching you” though “they just don’t know it.” This phrase invites us to reflect on the question; how many people yearn for salvation, for meaning, for a way out of their despair and personal dramas from ‘someone’ whether they know it or not? Every human heart is hard-wired to look to someone to rescue them in times of distress, though they ‘don’t know it’. We all have our hands outstretched longing for someone else to grab it. As Christians we know the person we are all looking for is Christ, it is to Christ that we are ‘watching’ for although we do not know it. All hope and salvation is rooted in Christ. Just as in the hostage drama, the greatest drama of life is ‘sin’ whether we are aware of it or not. We are hostages to sin and we need deliverance by God.
One of the most important challenges facing Mendez is gaining the trust of the hostages. Initially he presents himself with a pseudo name to the six escapees and as a result finds it hard to get one of the men to leave the house. The man insists on knowing who he really is. It is only when Mendez discloses his real name and identity does the plan really get going and the man begins to cooperate. So for us before we can grab the saviour’s hand our faith tells us that trust in truth and ‘revelation’, is important. If a person in despair is willing to be truly free from their state and accept ‘salvation’, they need authenticity. God revealed His name ‘Yahweh’ to Moses, an invitation for Moses to begin to know Him more intimately and so to follow Him. This same personal disclosure culminates with Jesus on the Cross who reveals the innermost heart of God’s compassion and love, His true name. Like the man who trusts in Mendez we place our trust and confidence in Christ because He has revealed the innermost identity of God. Hence our act of faith is a response to God’s own self-communication and since God is truth itself, it is a response to truth and authenticity.
Lastly, Mendez and the other hostages succeed to freedom with a close call. Mendez risks his life especially risks never seeing his own son again. This is the ultimate Christian act to want to lay down one’s life for another, even for persons you do not know. Furthermore, such heroism does not go unnoticed yet it is not noticed in a way that we may expect. Mendez is awarded one of the highest awards of his country but no one knows because of the classified nature of his mission. The boss tells Mendez if he was looking for applause for his acts of service and bravery he should have joined the circus. This rings a familiar tone for Christians who should do acts of love for love’s sake and not for admiration and reputation. We like Mendez are rewarded in secret, known only by our Heavenly Father.