What I realized some days later about the scene in the movie Pele that touched me so deeply was the incredibly intense sense of vindication that it communicated. And what I saw was that everyone—every single human being on this planet—has a cavernous yearning for vindication of one sort or another. Everyone is looking for the justification of their existence…to know somehow that "I'm ok, I'm worthy, I'm valuable."
I remember a scene from another movie about a young man who was rescued in WWII by a group of soldiers, several of whom lost their lives in the process. At the end when the man is old, he says to his wife, "Tell me I've lived a good life…tell me I'm a good man." He wanted assurance that the sacrifice of his comrades in arms had not been in vain.
But quite frankly, the gospel does not tell you that you're a good man or a good woman or that you've lived a good life. In fact the gospel tells you that there is none righteous – not one. All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The good news of the gospel is that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us and that he fulfilled all righteousness on our behalf. So Jesus came and lived the life we should have lived, and died the death we should have died.
The parable of the movie Pele (unbeknownst to the makers of the film!) is that Pele did what the rest of Brazil could not. He played the perfect game. In real life, he actually fainted at the end of that game, and in the movie this moment is relived, with Pele's arms outstretched in the form of a cross, and when he falls to the field, he is first buried (under his teammates) and then resurrected triumphantly on their shoulders. No, Pele is not Jesus. It's a parable. A parable is a story that paints a poetic picture. Because of what Pele did on their behalf, Brazilians could proclaim, "We won the World Cup!" We do this all the time when our team wins. We say that we won the World Series, or the Super Bowl, or the NBA championship…we won it! Though we never suited up, never kicked a single goal, never broke a drop of sweat, never ran a single lap, and never caught a single pass—"we" won the championship!
Likewise, because of what Jesus did, those who call on his name are vindicated. They are forgiven. They are justified. They are made worthy in God's sight. Not by works lest any man should boast. It is by grace through faith—and that not of your own doing—it is the gift of God.
Only the vindication and justification that comes through Jesus Christ can satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart.