It was a rescue I did not want. As a young teenager I had been a sailor for a very short time, but long enough to develop a love, in fact passion, for sailing. And long enough to develop a disdain for the noise-and-water-polluting powerboats that I referred to as ‘stink-pots.’ But it was a rescue I needed. My Dad was with me for a wonderful blustery sail, but the wonderful part had turned to downright scary and we needed to get back. My boat seemed to have other plans and we started to struggle. We tried bringing down the sails and paddling. That got us nowhere. We tried throwing out the anchor. Being nothing more than a tin of beans with cement instead of beans, that did nothing. Though in sight of where we wanted to be, we just could not get back. But finally our problems were solved, by a water-and-noise-polluting stinkpot.
There is an offer of rescue through Jesus whose name means “God saves,” or “God rescues.” An angel tells Joseph that Mary “will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21 NRSV). There are three things to note about this rescue:
People really do not want a rescue. They would rather be able to do it on their own. There is a bugging sense that sin is real and a real problem, but we will deal with that ourselves by living better, and by being more religious. The apostle Paul studies religion in Romans but concludes “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24 NRSV). I did not want a rescue and would rather have sailed back or paddled back, but that wasn’t working. When I got over my pride and accepted the offer of rescue I got back. Many people try many things to deal with their sin. None of it will work, but we have a Rescuer: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25 NRSV).
People do not want a rescue if it is by Jesus. That would mean giving up preconceived ideas. It would mean a change of heart and a change in behaviour. People do not want Jesus touching their time, their money, their desires. People do not want a rescue if it has anything to do with Christianity. They will point to hypocrites, to wars, and to science. But none of all that disproves the Rescuer. If I was to be rescued, I would want a more experienced sailor to jump on board and help us sail back. But I did not get to choose the manner of rescue. And I did not refuse the rescue. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock.” (Revelation 3:20 KJV) Will you refuse the Rescuer?
People see no need for a rescue. To borrow a line from one of my favourite rock bands “I don’t need to be forgiven.” Why look for a solution where there is no problem? While we may feel that way today, there is the future to think about. The longer I was in trouble on the water, the more I realized I needed the rescue. The winds may be light right now, but the day will come when you will be overwhelmed with grief over your sin. “The one who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.'” (Revelation 22:20a NRSV) Why not take the rescue and instead be overwhelmed with joy over the experience of God’s love, God’s rescue? “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20b NRSV)