Summary: A message about the demoniac who received the wonderful grace of Jesus.
On June 27th, 1976 an Air France Airbus lifted off from the Athens International Airport. It was a beautiful day to fly. The sky was clear. The Aegean Sea below was a brilliant blue. It was just perfect. But the serenity of the first moments of that flight was shattered with a scream as a man and a woman stood up brandishing grenades and quickly training their pistols on the flight attendants. The man made his way to the cockpit where he ordered the pilot to change his course to Entebbe, the capitol city of Uganda, and a safe haven protected by the monstrous Idi Amin.
Their goal was clear. They wanted Israel to release 53 Palestinian or pro-Palestinian terrorists from prison. Their threat was also made very clear. If Israel was to deny their request, all 102 of the Israeli hostages would be slaughtered like diseased cattle.
The Israeli Cabinet, led by Prime Minister Rabin, was caught in a very difficult situation. They had to do everything in their power to see those hostages released. But they weren’t willing to release any terrorists. To do so would be to open the door for more acts of terrorism and violence, putting every Israeli in more danger. On the other hand, they were not willing to sacrifice those Israeli citizens either.
So immediately a strike force was assembled in the Israeli desert to plan the impossible. The hostages were being held in an abandoned airport terminal in that capitol city of Uganda, and this strike force was going to make a daring rescue attempt. Flight plans were ordered. Other countries, including Kenya and the United States, pledged their support and assistance. The raid was practiced over and over again. And finally the time came to make their move.
Six planes took off from El Al headed for Nairobi, Kenya. There one of the planes, the hospital plane, landed and the other five headed towards Uganda. No suspicion was aroused anywhere because it was assumed that the planes on the radar screen were taking the usual route to South Africa. But as they got closer they dropped below the radar and headed straight for that abandoned airport.
Under the cover of night those planes landed undetected. As they rolled to a stop the tail ramp of one of the cargo planes dropped and out drove a black Mercedes Benz limousine followed by two Land Rovers filled with Israeli commandos. The limo was identical to that of Idi Amin, all the way down to the license plate; and sitting in the back was a bulky officer dressed just like the dictator. As they neared the building, the Ugandan guards snapped to attention for the arrival of their leader, long enough to allow the Israelis to get within a few yards of the building before the shooting started.
Bullets were flying for twenty minutes before it was finally all over. The hostages were ordered into the awaiting planes there to rescue them. And as they ran to their getaway vehicles, fireballs erupted as the Israeli commandos destroyed the eleven jets that would have scrambled to intercept their planes. Everyone entered the planes, the hatches shut, and the planes took off.
Remarkably, only three hostages and one Israeli commando lost their lives that night. The operation, though not perfect, had been successful. They had completed the impossible.
I don’t know about you, but I love to hear about daring rescues. I love to hear stories of men and women who risked their lives in order to save someone else. And this is one of the greats. The thing about rescues that makes them so amazing and memorable is that those needing rescued are completely unable to help themselves. Those Israeli hostages would have had no hope of ever seeing home again if it hadn’t been for the difficult decisions of their nation’s cabinet and the astonishing efforts of their nation’s commandos. Someone had to help them. They had no way of helping themselves.
In the fifth chapter of Mark we read a story about another amazing rescue. No, we don’t see any bullets whizzing or spears flying, we don’t see any amazing disguises or hand to hand combat. But we’re told a story about a man who couldn’t help himself. He had no hope unless someone was to come to his rescue. The good news is, someone did. Let’s look at that story together.
You know, I think a lot of times we can look at this story and think about how wonderful it is, but at the same time we disconnect ourselves from it. We read about this man and think about what a poor soul he must have been. How could he have allowed himself to be taken over by so many demons? He must have lived a very wicked life. It sure is a good thing that Jesus got a hold of him. It’s almost like the Pharisee and the publican that Jesus told us about. It’s almost like we stand in the middle of the temple and obnoxiously thank God that we aren’t like this other man.