John Matthews (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) lives a good life; he’s remarried with a young daughter and his truck company is expanding its fleet. But then he gets “the” phone call that changes everything: his teenage son (Rafi Gavron) from his first marriage has been arrested for drug trafficking. Soon, his son is faced with a decision: serve ten years in prison or “snitch” on drug dealers he knows and reduce his sentence to one year in prison. But what if his son legitimately doesn’t know any drug dealers?
We know Matthews’ son isn’t guilty of what he’s accused of, but you can tell from the trailer that his father will take on his son’s obligation, and agree to turn over drug dealers to see his son freed. But in this “based on a true story” thriller, the feds aren’t always willing to follow through so quickly, and a truck-driving dad isn’t exactly an expert on how to meet drug dealers, set them up, and slip away quietly into the night.
The film itself is pretty good (especially in comparison to A Good Day To Die Hard…), and Walking Dead alum Jon Bernthal is excellent as Matthews’ ex-con employee who helps him “get in the game.” But the theological implications of Matthews’ love for his son, degree of guilt notwithstanding, was striking.
In Luke 15, Jesus tells the story of the prodigal son: ”
“There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”
Matthews’ love for his son puts him at risk; the father in the parable picks up his robes and runs to his son (a traditional no-no), reinstates him even after being insulted by his request and abandonment, and takes him back as his own even at the loss of half of his possessions, while he was still alive (an inheritance before the person dies? Outlandish!) And the Rock’s father figure is willing to break the law, risk his life, sacrifice the respect of others, put his company on the line, etc. All to rescue a son who broke the law and admittedly deserved to be punished.
But thanks be to God that Matthews wasn’t your average father. And thank goodness God isn’t either. God sacrificed himself, credibility, happiness, the life of Jesus, a sin-free life, everything to become one with us in our sin-riddled existence and die an awful death so that we, who deserved punishment, would receive eternal life instead. How amazing is that?
If more of us saw parenthood the way Matthews does in Snitch, more families would stay together, more children would thrive, and more communities would have an example of Christ’s self-sacrificing love. Quite the parable, indeed.