Beckett: Christ Figures – SPARTAN-117: Saviour of Humanity

Some History

Halo: Combat Evolved box cover.

I grew up playing video games. At just the age of three, my older brother wanted someone to play Sonic the Hedgehog with on the Sega Genesis, so he taught me how to play as Tails while he played as Sonic. Later on, I would play DOOM and Duke Nukem on PC, as well as Bungie’s Marathon. On Christmas Day of 1999, my parents got me my first GameBoy: the GameBoy Pocket in my favourite colour, red, along with Pokémon Red Version. When we got a Nintendo 64, I enjoyed games like Mario Kart and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. On Nintendo’s GameCube, I highly enjoyed Phantasy Star Online: Episodes I & II and Animal Crossing. None of that, however, prepared me for the legend that would be Halo: Combat Evolved on the original Xbox.

Halo was ahead of its time and it would change the course of gaming in the decades to come, especially when it would enter the realm of online competitive gaming with the release of Halo 2. The main character you play as, whom we first only knew as the Master Chief, was not only an incredibly strong super soldier, but he was also mysterious. What does he look like under that heavy helmet of his? To this day, 19 years after Halo’s release, we still don’t know what the Master Chief looks like, at least aside from what he looked like as a kid in the Halo graphic novels and film animation.

If you’re not familiar with the story of Halo, the Master Chief belongs to a class of super soldiers called SPARTAN-IIs, the chosen moniker to honour the original Spartans in Greece. His name is John. He has no last name because he, like all the other SPARTAN-IIs, was an orphan.

John’s story begins in the year 2517. Dr. Catherine Elisabeth Halsey, a civilian scientist with the Office of Naval Intelligence, had developed a unique scientific procedure to turn humans with very specific sets of genetics into super soldiers. They’re still human, but because of this painstaking augmentation they underwent, only 73% survived the chemical enhancements. The remaining either did not survive the process or were left so injured and disabled that the UNSC found other ways to use their strong minds.

The augmentation made them exceedingly taller and muscular, drastically increased their reaction time, made them capable of seeing in the dark, and even some detrimental effects such as insipid emotional reactions, although this is more likely due to their military training more than the augmentation. One of the main purposes of the enhancement was to enable the soldiers to wear a suit called MJOLNIR that would crush nearly every bone in a human’s body who did not undergo the augmentation.

These orphans began their training at the age of six. Dr. Halsey, with some help, illegally cloned the children and replaced them with the original children on the planet Reach. If you’re familiar with Halo, you’re likely aware that throughout all the games, the Spartans and Marines fight aliens. However, the SPARTAN-II programme was originally designed to combat a human rebel force called the Insurrection.

These were humans who lived in the Outer Colonies who felt the Colonial Administration Authority treated them as second-rate citizens in comparison to humans on Earth with overbearing bureaucracies. Having started as peaceful protests, the tensions soon escalated to a civil war, requiring the UNSC (United Nations Space Command) to get involved.

Dr. Halsey originally designed the SPARTAN-II programme to fight the Insurrectionists and put an end to the rebellion, but little did she know the vital role these Spartans would take in the coming threat: a collective allegiance of religious zealots consisting of various alien species called the Covenant.

The Covenant species from left to right: the warrior Elites (Sangheili), above that the Engineers (Huragok), then the Prophets (San’Shyum), the insect-like Drones (Yanme’e), the massive Hunters (Mgalekgolo), the ape-like Brutes (Jiralhanae), the space pirate bird-like Jackals (Kig-Yar), and the small cowardly Grunts (Unggoy).

The Spartans would play a pivotal role in what came to be known as the Human-Covenant War, which lasted for 27 years from February 11, 2525 to December 11, 2552. None, however, would play a more pivotal role than John SPARTAN-117, the Master Chief. Known for being extremely lucky, John would put a huge dent in the Covenant’s religiosity by destroying a sacred Halo ring, Installation 04, which was one of 18 artificial ring-shaped planets an ancient and extinct alien race called the Forerunners made. The Covenant worshipped the Forerunners as gods because of their extremely superior technology.

The “zombie parasite.”

The Halo Array was a response to the greatest threat of the galaxy: the Flood. The Flood was a parasitic species that could infect every living organism to turn it into one of its Flood lifeforms. The Flood is similar to the insect parasite called ophiocordyceps unilateralis, what we usually call the “zombie parasite.” The parasite infects ants of a specific species and drastically alters their behaviour. An abnormal growth sprouts from their head. Taking control of the ant, it can infect other ants as well. Imagine this parasite on a galactic scale where every living creature is equally edible. That is the Flood.

Yet the Forerunners themselves had their own civil war. One side wanted to utilise the Halo Array to shelter all life in the galaxy from the Flood. The other side wanted to use the Halo rings as a weapon against the Flood to destroy all life in the galaxy, essentially starving the Flood to death since they were an impossible enemy to defeat.

The Flood, “Flood infection form” created by ThemeFinland on Deviant Art.

I won’t relay the entire story here, but due to fighting against the Flood and the humans and their civil war, the Forerunners were essentially wiped out. Fast forward 100,000 years later, and the collective alien force who called themselves the Covenant want to activate the remaining Halo rings to ascend on their “Great Journey” to become gods like the Forerunners. Due to complex deception and self-denial, the religious leaders of the Covenant called the Prophets convinced the other alien species they would all ascend to godhood rather than being totally wiped out with the rest of life in the entire galaxy.

Humanity Needs A Saviour

Halo 3 announcement art.

With a lot of things left out, that’s basically the story behind Halo. Enter, now, our hero: the Master Chief. John is one of very few SPARTAN-IIs left after the Covenant’s destruction of the planet Reach, a major blow to the UNSC as the planet was their main operating base. Having evacuated the planet, the fate of the universe essentially rests on John’s shoulders, armed with nothing but his military training since the age of 6, an AI named Cortana, and luck.

With the unforeseen rise of the Human-Covenant War coupled with the abrupt appearance of the Flood years later in a war the humans were already losing, humanity needed a saviour. Unbeknownst to him, that saviour would be SPARTAN-117 John.

With a lot of help from others, especially the dissenters from the Covenant whom those still loyal to the Covenant labeled as “heretics,” John almost single-handedly ends the Human-Covenant War and destroys the Flood via a long hidden Forerunner secret. All of this takes place in the first Halo trilogy. At the end of Halo 3, the Master Chief is thought to be dead, though he is actually stranded literally in the middle of nowhere in space.

After sleeping in cryo-sleep for 4 years and 7 months, Cortana wakes John from cryo-sleep due to an imminent threat at a new artificial planet called Requiem, built by the Forerunners. With this would come a new threat: the Forerunners, only this time they’re mechanical soldiers, and the long-forgotten Didact rises from his prison to turn humans into these mechanical soldiers through an ancient Forerunner device called the Composer.

Thought dead, John rises from the grave to face this new threat and save humanity once again. This is the currently story Halo 4 and on is telling.

That Saviour is Jesus

Halo plays on a theme common in a lot of literature, film, and video games: humanity needs a saviour. This is true even in real life. Everyone is desperately looking for a saviour. That trust in a saviour might be in a politician, a political party, an ethical philosophy (e.g. ethical veganism), or a political agenda such as climate change to “save the planet.”

Of course, none of these people and things are actual saviours. None of these can save you. None of these can save the earth. SPARTAN-117 John was just the saviour humanity needed. Not just with his military training and luck, but also his bravado, incredible courage, and unrelenting determination to serve humanity.

Jesus Christ is just the Saviour we needed. Indeed, He is the Saviour we always need. God’s Law was the answer to our sin. In a once perfect state at creation, we ruined it by creating our own will to disobey the will of God and, much like the Covenant, to become gods ourselves. Sin and death entered the world. Like a parasite, death would soon destroy every living thing, even the earth itself.

But God set a placeholder to restrain our sin and to prevent us from completely destroying ourselves: the Law. Yet the Law requires human beings to keep it perfectly, but nobody can. Only God can keep it perfectly, as it reveals His own holiness, righteousness, goodness, and perfection. Who can save humanity from itself? Certainly no human being can.

Christ on the Cross, Peter Paul Rubens, 1612-1616.

So, God did the impossible and the unthinkable: God the Son became human, born of a virgin, conceived through the Holy Spirit. Thus, God the Son became equally and impartially human and divine. His name was Jesus Christ. A human being must perfectly keep the Law, and the Law requires a blood sacrifice to atone for sins. So, as a human being, Jesus perfectly kept the Law, which only He could perfectly keep since He is also God; and, as a human, Jesus willingly allowed Himself to be sacrificed as the lamb to atone for all sins since He was perfect. He could die because He is human, He could fulfil the Law because He is God, and He could atone for the sins of all since He is perfectly God and a perfect human.

Upon the cross, Jesus became the final atonement for the sins of the whole world, that whomever would believe in Him would be saved and have eternal life (John 3:16-17). But He did not stay dead forever. It wasn’t 4 years and 7 months later, but 3 days later He rose from the dead that we might share in a resurrection like His (Romans 6:1-11). He defeated our enemy: sin, death, and the Devil. Whomever believes this and is baptised shall have life eternal (Mark 16:16).

Jesus is and always will remain the Saviour everyone is desperately searching for. Whether it’s in someone else, some agenda, or within yourself, these things will always remain inadequate to save you. Jesus is the Saviour God gave us, and He alone is adequate to save you from your sins. He alone shall create the new heavens and the new earth, which He promises to His saints (Revelation 21).

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