by David Phelps
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” - Mother Teresa
One day late last year, a Bronx, New York, woman was trapped in the kitchen of her burning third-story apartment, along with her five-week-old son. There was no way to escape. Finally, with the flames spreading, the mother made a desperate decision. She held her baby out the third-story window, prayed “God, please let someone catch my baby!” And dropped him!
Meanwhile, a man had come out of a nearby building where he worked, to see what was happening. The man, who is the catcher for his company softball team, saw what was taking place, leaped over the fence in front of the burning apartment building–and truly made the catch of a lifetime! And then, realizing that the infant had stopped breathing, he performed yet another life-saving act and administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until the child was able to breathe on his own.
Fortunately, firefighters were able to rescue the trapped mother and she was quickly reunited with her son. The grateful mother even asked her baby’s rescuer, a former stranger, to be his godfather.
As a parent, I can’t begin to comprehend what must have been going through the mother’s mind as she dropped her baby to an uncertain fate. I can’t imagine actually doing such a thing, even if I knew my daughter, Monica, would survive.
This story turned out well but what if no one had caught the falling baby or given it mouth-to-mouth resuscitation? What if the mother had known that she was dropping her child to a tragic, painful death? And, knowing what would happen, she had dropped her baby anyway? What kind of parent could possibly do such a thing?
God could and did. God sent Jesus to die for our sins, knowing the ultimate pain Jesus would experience. And Jesus was aware of his fate. When John the Baptist saw Jesus for the first time, he exclaimed, “‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29b NIV). Jesus himself spoke of giving the people his flesh and his blood to eat and drink (John 6:48-58). Later, he put it even more bluntly: “‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.’” (John 10:11 NIV). He knew he would be betrayed and who his betrayer would be (John 6:64-71). Later, he acknowledged the necessity of his death:
“‘. . . unlessa kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.’” (John 12:24b NIV). Yes, he knew he would be raised from the dead (John 2:18-22) but he also knew how he would die and the kind of painful, gruesome death it would be. Crucifixions were not uncommon and most people in the Roman Empire of Jesus’ time had probably witnessed one at least once. He was not looking forward to death any more than any human being. And not only would he die but he would be completely cut off from the Father (Matt. 27:46). In the garden of Gethsemane, he prayed, “‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.’” But he didn’t stop there; instead, he continued, “‘Yet not as I will, but as you will.’” (Matt. 26:39b NIV).
Jesus promised the disciples, “‘You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. . . . and no one will take away your joy.’” (John 16:20b, 22b NIV). After the resurrection, when they had seen the risen Christ, their joy was overflowing. Their joy can also be our joy. Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome,
“. . . wealso rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Rom. 5:11b NIV). We can share our joy with everyone we meet, and tell them about the love of a God who “. . . soloved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:9-12 NIV.)