Summary: YOU Were Saved in the World’s Greatest Rescue 1) Greatest because of its objective and scope 2) Greatest because of its effect
Their ship, the Endurance, had been crushed by the ice and sank to the bottom of the ocean. All 28 crewmembers managed to escape in three lifeboats, not sailing them but pushing and pulling them over the pack ice just north of Antarctica until they could dash across icy waters for an inhospitable place called Elephant Island. From there six men, including their leader, Sir Ernest Shackleton, set out in a modified lifeboat on a journey of 1,300 km (800 miles) over the most storm-swept water in the world. They were headed for South Georgia Island, the location of a whaling station and certain rescue. Although the men didn’t have GPS for navigational support they managed to find the island in that wild ocean 14 days later but it took them another two days to land because of a hurricane, the same one that sunk a 500-ton steamer. Once on dry land, however, the men realized that their ordeal was far from over. The whaling station was still 27 km (17 miles) away on the other side of the island, and standing between them and safety were 2,900 meter (9,500 ft.) peaks and fissure-riddled glaciers. Normal people would have given up. Not Shackleton. He had promised his mates marooned on Elephant Island that he would come back to rescue them so he and two others hiked over the snow and ice covered mountains for 36 hours straight until they stumbled into the whaling station! When Shackleton returned to Elephant Island to pick up the rest of his crew they could hardly believe their eyes. Ten months had elapsed since the sinking of the Endurance (105 days since Shackleton had left them). Many were beginning to think that they would never see civilization again. Yet here was the “Boss” come back to rescue them.
The true story of Shackleton’s heroics is a classic. His expedition failed to complete its goal of crossing Antarctica on foot but the misadventure turned into one of the greatest rescues of all time as not one crew member lost his life. As gripping as the tale of Shackleton and his crew are, it’s not the world’s greatest rescue. You were saved in the world’s greatest rescue. That’s what the Apostle Paul teaches us this morning. What makes this rescue so great is its objective and scope, as well as its effect. Let’s find out more.
Paul describes the rescue mission like this: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly… Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him” (Romans 5:6, 9). This rescue mission is great because of its objective. God set out to save the ungodly. If your child were kidnapped, you would implore the authorities to spare no expense to rescue him or her. Do you feel the same way when testosterone fueled skiers knowingly ski out of bounds and get themselves into trouble? Should thousands of dollars be spent looking for them? What about the drug-crazed person who has driven a stolen truck into the icy river? Should a rescue team risk their lives to save him? Frankly, it doesn’t seem worth it. Why should “good” people risk their life to save the bad? Why should RCMP officers, for example, use their bodies as human shields to protect the serial murderer on his way to court?
Now consider again how Paul tells us that God set out to save people who don’t deserve a pat on the back but a slap in the face (Daron Lindemann). Paul is describing himself. He’s describing me. And he’s describing you. We are the ungodly. God has set definite boundaries for us to live and work within to keep everyone safe but we arrogantly think that those boundaries don’t apply to us. Take Jacob for example. In our Old Testament lesson we see Jacob asleep with a rock under his head as a pillow. One wonders which of the two was harder – Jacob’s head or his stone pillow? (Chad Bird) You see Jacob had ignored God’s promise to give him his father’s inheritance even though he was the younger son. Instead of waiting, Jacob took matters into his own hands and tricked his blind father into giving him the inheritance. As a result Jacob had to hightail it out of his homeland because Esau, his older brother, vowed to kill him. Yet there God was – appearing to Jacob in that dream to say: “Jacob, you’re my man and I’m your God.”
There’s a lot of the lying Jacob in us, isn’t there? Instead of telling our parents the truth about why we didn’t do well on that test, we claim that our teacher isn’t very good, when really, it was our laziness the caused the poor mark. Or we lie to our spouse about how we spent the evening – not at work, at least not working, but hanging out with someone we should not be spending time with. When someone asks for help we make up a story of why we can’t when the real reason is that we just don’t want to be bothered. Do you see what’s so amazing about this rescue God pulled off through his Son, Jesus? He didn’t rescue cuddly little puppies but snarling dogs that snap at any hand that tries to guide them. It wasn’t an easy or cheap rescue either. God didn’t just wave a wand and forgive our sins. He sacrificed his own Son. Would you do that? Would you send your son to rescue a child molester if you knew your son would lose his life in the process? That’s what God did…and for free. You’ll never receive a bill in the mail for what God did to save you from hell fire.