October 25, 2010
When we were at the beach recently, one of my sons was carried out past the last breakers by a rip tide. He panicked a little when he got tired fighting the current, but he had enough wits about him to call to his older brother, who was swimming nearby. The older swam out to his younger brother, putting himself at risk, and began to push him toward the shore until he was at the breakers and able to ride the waves in to safety.
This past week, we all heard and read about another rescue operation that took place in Chile, when 33 miners, “Los 33,” were pulled to safety. They had been trapped for 69 days, more than 2,000 feet below the surface ever since the mine they were working in collapsed on Aug. 5. The operation to sustain these 33 men and then to rescue them has been applauded by people all over the world. The miners are celebrities now. One report said, “Previously unimaginable riches (await these) men who had risked their lives going into the unstable mine for about $1,600 a month.” The president of Chile, Sebastian Pinera, said of the miners, “They have experienced a new life, a rebirth.” The nation is basking in the glow of this rescue.
These two stories are connected: My son and the 33 miners were all rescued. No book offers have come our way. No movie deals have been signed. There are no companies like the Greek mining group offering a Mediterranean vacation for my son and one of his companions. Nonetheless, he is every bit as rescued as they. He was facing death, like the miners, and someone came from the outside and found a way to save him.
Reminds me of another rescue operation. It culminated on a wooden cross 2,000 years ago. All of mankind was trapped, buried under sin, drowning in rebellion, without hope. All human efforts to dig our way out were in vain, all of our resources and physical stamina exhausted as we tried to brook the tide that was against us. Unlike the miners who were simply doing their job, and unlike my son who was simply careless in deadly water, all of mankind was trapped and buried and dead because of willful sin. We were enemies of God and it was God himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, who came to our rescue. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Jesus did not die as an example. My son didn’t need his brother to show him a better swim stroke. He needed a savior who would pull him to shore. Jesus did not die as a martyr. My son didn’t need his older brother to swim out and drown beside him as a way to evoke sympathy. He needed someone alive to help him live. Jesus died as a sacrifice. He took our sins upon himself so that we might have his righteousness in exchange. He did it all. We did nothing. The Chilean health minister said, “We called this a real miracle, because any effort we could have made doesn’t explain the health condition these people have today.” That’s right. The rescue operation and the physical and mental health of these men who survived the ordeal can be termed a miracle. But think about this: Every one of those miners, my son, me, and every one of you, is still going to die. Have you been rescued from that?