The Gospel According to Top Gun

NOTE: We just released a podcast about Top Gun: Maverick, the sequel 36 years in the making. Listen in as Jon and Tim dig in to the themes and why they were surprised to find this film worthwhile.

I recently revisited the seminal 80’s movie Top Gun (which is still one of my all time favourites). The movie centres around Maverick, a young, talented fighter pilot, and his radar operator, code named Goose. Arrogantly aware of his exceptional skill, Maverick believes himself above the rules governing his peers and the navy at large.

Maverick quickly makes enemies among his fellow fighter pilots and superiors at the Top Gun Naval Fighters Weapons School. In their eyes, he is a loose cannon who flies only for himself. Indeed, Maverick makes rule-breaking choices during combat exercises, leaving his wingmen stranded. Yet Maverick’s ego comes to his defense, and he often fails to see his fault in these situations.

In the final combat exercise, disaster strikes. Maverick, assigned to be the wingman for a fellow pilot, Iceman, struggles to keep his ego in check. Both pilots are vying to be number one, and neither wants to give an inch. Maverick goes in for the winning shot on an enemy fighter, however Iceman is in the way, and Maverick loses control of his F-14 in Iceman’s jetwash. Maverick and Goose eject from their doomed jet and parachute into the ocean.

It is then that Maverick realises his long time friend and flight partner has broken his neck in the escape, dying instantly. He is grief-stricken to the point of giving up being a pilot, blaming himself for Goose’s sudden end.

An Unexpected Reflection on the Cross

I love to celebrate the goodness of God wherever I see it, and I believe that He wants to reveal himself, even when we aren’t looking for Him. It was in this portrayal of Goose’s death and its aftermath that led me to an unexpected reflection on the cross of Christ. I was blown away by this revelation of the Gospel.

Scripture says we were united with Jesus on the cross, that our sinful nature died with Him on that fateful day. Yet it is in this union in His death and resurrection that we find forgiveness and new life, free of the constraints of sin and death. We are able to finally see ourselves as our Father sees us—loved and accepted beyond measure, without condition.

A part of Maverick died with Goose that day. A most important part—his ego. His sinfulness. After all, that’s what sin is, isn’t it? A display of our own ego? A belief that we can do something to be worthy? That day Maverick realised his very own ego had killed his friend.

When we look at the cross we see that it was our very own egos that killed our saviour. We thought we should perform to please or appease God, and silenced every challenge to that thinking. Our best intentions had murdered the One who came to bring life. We were united with Christ on the cross, for we finally saw the inability of our own efforts to produce anything good. Our ego, our every effort was destroyed in the moment we took Christ’s life.

For all his bravado and all his skill Maverick could not do anything to save himself or his friend. It was this very same bravado and skill that had directly led to Goose’s death. His ego and skill were no longer good for anything, for they culminated in death. Maverick was lost in despair, and not even being exonerated at the tribunal for his actions could allay his guilt. He was ready to throw away everything he had worked for his whole life, everything he was created to enjoy because he could not reconcile himself to his circumstance.

Maverick was well and truly united with Goose in his death. Everything he thought he knew about himself and had put his hope in was destroyed. He could never again go on living, continuing to believe in his own ability the way that he always had.

Not the End

Thank God this is not the end of the story, for Maverick or for us. Just as Jesus’ resurrection is evidence of our forgiveness and restoration in Him, Maverick experienced a resurrection through the forgiveness of Goose’s family. Goose may not have been physically resurrected, but his spirit lived on in the lives of his wife and son, who offered Maverick love and acceptance.

This acceptance brought about a transformation within Maverick. His identity had forever been altered, which in turn made Maverick into the pilot he was always had the potential to be. God in turn, has always intended for me to break free from the limitations of my ego and live in the freedom that He designed for me. Perhaps the cross can shape my vision, my perspective of who I truly am, forever united with Christ and accepted by love that truly takes my breath away.

Republished with permission from Christian Today Australia