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How To Recognize Love

On January 13th, 1982, Air Florida flight 90 took off from Washington National Airport (now Reagan National) bound for Fort Lauderdale. 30 seconds after taking off, the aircraft struck the 14th Street bridge and careened into the Potomac. Of the 79 souls on board, only 5 survived. And of those who died, the one who will long be remembered is 46-year-old bank examiner, Arland D. Williams Jr.

From a Washington Post article dated January 14, 1982 (before Williams’ name was known), “A Hero – Passenger Aids Others, Then Dies.”

He was about 50 years old, one of half a dozen survivors clinging to twisted wreckage bobbing in the icy Potomac when the first helicopter arrived. To the copter’s two-man Park Police crew he seemed the most alert. Life vests were dropped, then a flotation ball. The man passed them to the others. On two occasions, the crew recalled last night, he handed away a lifeline from the hovering machine that could have dragged him to safety. The helicopter crew who rescued five people, the only persons who survived from the jetliner, lifted a woman to the riverbank, then dragged three more persons across the ice to safety. Then the lifeline saved a woman who was trying to swim away from the sinking wreckage and the helicopter pilot, Donald W. Usher, returned to the scene but the man was gone.

When I say that Mr. Williams will be long remembered, I speak the truth: When the bridge that the airplane destroyed was later rebuilt, it was named in his honor. And for good reason, for Mr. Williams’ silent message to his fellow passengers on that day was heard loud and clear: “I’ll stay here in the frigid water…you go to warmth, safety…and life.” In other words, I’ll take your place…

I’ll die for you.

They call this substitution…offering yourself in someone else’s place. And according to Jesus, there is no greater act of love (John 15:13).

And this is exactly what the Apostle Peter is speaking of in the second chapter of his first letter…

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. 1 Peter 2:24-25 (ESV)

He dies…we live. He is wounded…we are healed. Peter’s imagery and thinking here is mightily influenced by an Old Testament prophet who first showed us the substitutionary death of the Messiah:

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned– every one– to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:5-6 (ESV)

The common themes are powerful – Peter and Isaiah both say we were straying sheep…they both say that somehow His wounds healed us…and they both say that He took our place of punishment. He was our substitute.

Growing up, on Sunday afternoons my mom often played an album with a song entitled He Could Have Called 10,000 angels

He could have called ten thousand angels
To destroy the world and set him free
He could have called ten thousand angels
But he died alone for you and me.

This is love: the Lifeline to safety was dropped, but Jesus passed it on…to you and me.

For Thursday, November 12th: 1 Peter 3

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Thoughts From the Dungeon

In the darkness of the dungeon sits a man hard-beaten by life…alone with his thoughts…

One too many dead. Yeah, I killed one too many. Now…soon, I’m next.

And what am I dying for? Looking back, it was a foolish rebellion.  It didn’t get us anywhere. My brothers are still oppressed. And no one will remember us…no one will remember our cause. Surely no one will ever remember me…executed by the mighty Romans. Caesar wins again.

Is anyone surprised?

Not me.

Oh, if I could live this life over. If I could have another chance. If I had never met the rebels as a foolish teenager. What my life could have been.

Would’ve. Could’ve. Should’ve.

I wonder how long I’ve got. It can’t be long now; I hear the bloodthirsty crowds shouting outside. And crucifixion awaits. Cruel, agonizing crucifixion. I’ve seen men writhing on the cross before. Torture is too weak a word. Now it’s my turn. And I deserve all the pain I will feel.

God.

Are you there? Stupid of me to try to speak to you if you are. But. Are you? If you are, well, I will see you soon. And I’ve heard the Jews say you are the merciful one. If so, how far does your mercy extend? Not to me…surely.

But if. If your mercy could extend to an ungodly one like me, if it could…oh, if it could, would you extend mercy to my soul? Would you? Would you?

Footsteps. They’re coming. This is it now. Steel yourself for the agony, man…

“Barabbas, on your feet…you’re being released….no, no joke. I know, I know, none of us can believe it either. But in the end it came down to you or the Nazarene carpenter. I guess you could say that his loss…is your gain.”

 

Monday, May 4: Mark 16

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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