A few years ago a ship, the Green Lily, was caught in a ferocious storm off the coast of England. Suffering from engine failure, the ship was drifting towards the rocky coastline. A Coast Guard lifeboat was sent to rescue the crew, but in the violent storm, with 10-metre waves pounding the vessel, they couldn’t get alongside the stranded ship.
The Green Lily soon ran aground. A helicopter was brought in to rescue the crew. With the storm raging, a helicopter winchman, Bill Deacon, volunteered to be lowered to the ship. He would attach a winch to the crew who, in their terrifying circumstances, would be raised to safety one by one.
Braving huge waves and gale force winds, Bill Deacon made sure that each member of the crew was rescued.
Sadly, with the last man in the helicopter, a huge wave washed Deacon into the ocean before the winch could be lowered one last time. The next day his body was found, and he was posthumously awarded the George Cross medal for bravery.
Imagine you are one of the ship’s crew rescued by Bill Deacon. You are safe in the helicopter. Looking down, you see a huge wave wash him into the raging ocean after he has saved your life.
Having experienced such a rescue, you could never be the same. You would live with constant gratitude and thankfulness for the man who saved your life, especially since he’d lost his own life in the process.
How much more is this true as we consider Jesus’ great rescue of us – his death on the cross in our place? When we see Jesus on the cross, we see Jesus in my place; in your place.
Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross was no accident of history. It was because of his love for us.
Despite the fact none of us has loved God as we should, despite the fact that in some way each of us has rebelled against God, ignoring him, not listening to him, Jesus loves us. And Jesus proved his love by rescuing us from an eternity without God by dying on the cross, taking our punishment for our turning away from God. This is amazing!
Jonathan Edwards, the great 18th Century American preacher, described the love of Jesus as vast and unending as “an ocean without shores or bottom”.
This is a love that changes everything! It is the greatest news in the history of the world.
It is the same conclusion that the Apostle Paul reaches in 2 Corinthians 5. In verse 15 we see how Paul is convinced, fully persuaded, that Christ’s love took him to the cross and, in his death and resurrection, makes available this extraordinary love – this wonderful gift forgiveness – for any person who would turn to Jesus in repentance and faith.
But Paul doesn’t leave it at that. Not only does the love of Jesus transform us, it also now means we see all people from a different perspective.
In verses 18-20, Paul goes on to say that as Christians we have been made “Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us” – urging people to be reconciled to God and to receive and accept his amazing grace.
Consider again that wrecked ship, the Green Lily. If you are a Christian, you were once a crew member on that ship. Now, having been rescued, you can never be the same. See how Jesus changes everything!
Jesus loves you. Jesus has died for you. Your sin has been paid for. You are reconciled to God through Jesus. You are Christ’s ambassador. God’s co-worker.
But also, consider this; our world is on that ship. People we know are on that ship. Our family. Our friends. Our work colleagues. The people in our club. In our team. They are all in danger of perishing, of spending an eternity without God. The ship is about to break up. Their lives are about to be lost.
Yet remember, we know the winchman. We know the one who can save them. We know Jesus.
And you can prayerfully look for opportunities to introduce them to Jesus so they, too, can be saved by him.
The Rev John Lavender is assistant director of Evangelism and New Churches.