Repentance in APOLLO 13 | FCC 59

On this episode of Finding Christ in Cinema, we blast off to the Moon and look for Christian themes in Apollo 13. Can the crew of Apollo 13 repent from their mistaken adventure? Can Ken Mattingly give the crew the power they need to live…like Jesus? All that and more in 3, 2, 1!

For your convenience you will find each segment at the time referenced below:

  • 00:00:00 – Introduction and Updates
  • 00:19:40Apollo 13 Discussion
  • 01:01:00 – Listener Feedback
  • 01:13:50 – Reel News
  • 01:16:40 – Listener Challenge and Upcoming

Lose the Moon to Save Your Life

The most notable Christian theme in Apollo 13 is that of losing something in the present to gain something better in the future. Case in point: when the oxygen tank explodes and renders the mission asunder, the crew begrudgingly decides to abort the mission and realign all efforts and resources for the return trip. All three members in the module had high hopes for this mission, even to the extent of a little (arguably a lot) of pride. That’s why it hurt them so much emotionally to make the decision to turn around without accomplishing the mission. But if they hadn’t turned around like they did, they wouldn’t have been able to get themselves back home.

This is an excellent illustration of repentance: a complete turning from one’s previous actions and attitudes to those that are better. Contrary to popular belief, repentance is not simply just reviewing one’s actions and attitudes and feeling contrition for them; instead, it involves a change – literally, a 180-degree turn. Just as the Odyssey had to be turned from the Moon to the Earth, and just as the crew had to turn their hearts from pride to humility, so is it with us whenever we desire to answer Jesus’s call.

Jesus calls us to this kind of repentance in one of his famous aphorisms:

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. (Luke 9:24 ESV)

These astronauts had to lose what they all thought was so great, but if they hadn’t let go of it, they would have not made it back home alive if at all. Yes, they essentially had to lose their life to find it.


This image from APOLLO 13 shows Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, and Kevin Bacon operating the control panel.


Houston, We Have a Problem…with Power

While the Apollo 13 crew was repenting from their mistaken adventure in outer space, it took someone from back home to help them with the right procedures and guide in their desperate situation. That role was fulfilled by Ken Mattingly, who was preemptively removed from the mission for fear of measles. Thankfully, however, because of his misplacement, he is able to rise to the call and save his fellow crew members.

So many parallels can be drawn between Jesus and Ken Mattingly at the point. Mattingly is alive and well back on Earth but chooses to subject himself to the same conditions as those in the Odyssey; this mirrors how Jesus chose to divest himself of his original glory in order to take on the same fleshly conditions as us. Mattingly did that in order to be able to save the crew from where they were, just as Jesus did that in order to save us from where we are. And both really only had one job: to give power to those who had none, Mattingly through rewiring the circuits on the Odyssey, and Christ by making it possible to stand righteously in God’s presence via his blood.

Paul sums it up best in his letter to the Romans:

And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. (Romans 8:2 NLT)

Mattingly gave the Odyssey enough power to make it back home to Earth, and if we belong to Jesus, he will give us the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit so we can make it back home to God.

And that, dear listeners, is good news.


This image from APOLLO 13 shows Gary Sinise as Ken Mattingly.


Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes, including links to articles discussed, by clicking here.

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About Brenden Taylor

Brenden is an educational assistant and tutor by day and a theatre practitioner by night. He has his M.A. in Theatre Arts and is always looking for a way to use good stories to soften people’s hearts.

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  • Philip Heard

    Great show guys, it’s interesting to think of repentance in that way, with a strong emphasis on changing one’s actions and going in the opposite direction.

    I’ve got a few questions for you: Have you seen the HBO series From the Earth to the Moon? I haven’t, but hear it’s excellent.

    Also, since Tom Hanks is so well covered on FCC, what are you guys’ favorites? Mine are Road to Perdition, Cloud Atlas, & Saving Private Ryan.

    Lastly, I’ve heard you guys discuss possibly branching out with Finding Christ in Literature, among other ideas. I can only imagine how much commitment and time it takes to do what you’re already doing, but what if you had special one-off episodes covering books occasionally? I’d enjoy hearing you guys give the FCC treatment to some books as well. I recently finished The Island of Dr. Moreau from Librivox, and that story is chock full of theological themes and implications- and pretty short as well. Just a thought!

    Thanks for the show fellas! #muhweeladgimli

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