THE LOST MINERS
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
We sometimes complain about how negative the news media is. We say that we get tired of all the bad news. It seems like the local news is all wrecks and robberies, and the national news is unemployment, foreclosures, and how many American kids got killed this week in Afghanistan. But that is not all there is. There is good news out there. You just have to look for it. The best news in October was probably the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped underground for 69 days.
The following is summarized from a story on MSNBC.com [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39625809/ns/world_news-americas/]
The last miner was rescued on Thursday October 14, 2010, a day marked with celebration and joy all around the world. One after another, the miners climbed into a missile-like steel capsule barely wider than a man's shoulders and took a 15-minute journey through 2,000 feet of rock to the surface. The rescue operation advanced rapidly without hitches. The return of the six rescuers who went down to help the miners followed and was concluded about two hours later.
Earlier, scenes of jubilation erupted each time a miner arrived to a hero's welcome above the San Jose gold and copper mine in Chile's northern Atacama desert. The last miner out was Luis Alberto Urzua, the shift foreman credited with helping the trapped miners endure 17 days in isolation before Chileans discovered the men had survived the mine collapse. "We have done what the entire world was waiting for," he told Chilean President Sebastian Pinera immediately after his rescue. "The 70 days that we fought so hard were not in vain. We had strength, we had spirit, we wanted to fight, we wanted to fight for our families, and that was the greatest thing." The president told him: "You are not the same, and the country is not the same after this. You were an inspiration. Go hug your wife and your daughter." With Urzua by his side, President Pinera led the crowd in singing the national anthem. "We were not only in the hearts of Latin American but in the hearts of the world," Pinera told the crowd. Before Urzua came Ariel Ticona whose wife gave birth while he was trapped underground. She named the baby girl “Esperanza,” which is Spanish for “Hope.” Earlier, Franklin Lobos, emerged to great applause. He was the only miner whose name was widely known in Chile before the disaster. Lobos played for the Chilean national soccer team that qualified for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
The capsule-rescue operation got faster as it went along, and all the men were safely above ground 22 hours, 37 minutes, after it started. "Welcome to life," Pinera told Victor Segovia, the 15th miner out, and this did not seem like an overstatement.
The rescue operation was not without some humor. One of the miners, Yonni Barrios, turned out to have a wife and a mistress, neither of whom was previously aware of the other. They both showed up at the mine, and you can imagine the confrontation. The wife left, but the mistress stayed and gave Barrios a big hug. His sister told London's Daily Telegraph that "he says quite simply that he loves them both, that they are both important to him and he wants them to be friends with each other." I don't know how that is going to work out.
The anxiety that had accompanied the final days of preparation melted away just after midnight local time when the stoutest of the miners, Florencio Avalos, emerged from the missile-like rescue capsule smiling broadly after his half-mile journey to the surface. In a din of cheers, he hugged his wife and his sobbing 7-year-old son, and then President Pinera. Avalos was chosen to be first to use the rescue capsule because he was in the best condition, and at the time it was not known how well the capsule would work.
An hour later, Mario Sepulveda, the most ebullient of the bunch, was lifted out. He hugged his wife, Elvira, and then jubilantly handed souvenir rocks from his underground prison to laughing rescuers. "I'm so happy!" Sepulveda yelled, grinning, punching his fist in the air and hugging everyone in sight. Sepulveda later said he had spent the last 10 weeks "between God and the devil." “They fought, God won," he said.
Now that is a good news story. The miners were lost but they stuck together and every one of them was saved.
USAToday said, "It was like a moon landing or the Super Bowl or the most gripping reality TV show you've ever seen. The rescue of 33 miners from what had seemed like their tomb below the Chilean desert was the culmination of a mythic tale of death and resurrection that briefly unified the world in awed delight." [http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2010-10-14-1Achileminers14_CV_N.htm]
Now, as I read that sentence I thought that USAToday might be saying more than they realize—because this whole episode of the trapped and hopeless miners who were rescued in such a spectacular fashion does parallel the gospel. When the mine collapsed tons of rock came down the shaft, and the miners immediately realized that there was no possibility that they could rescue themselves. Understand that they were at the very bottom of the mine. There was a half mile of rock between them and the surface. Initially the people on the surface did not know if any of the miners had survived the collapse. They tried to get down into the mine but that was impossible. They began to drill small six-inch shafts. Two weeks past. Most people had given up hope. After 17 days one of the drills broke through to the bottom of the mine. The excited miners began beating on the drill with their tools. They attached a note to the drill. The note was carried back to the surfaced. Suddenly the world realized that all 33 people who were in the mine were still alive down there. But now the hard question: How to get them out? Eventually the problem was solved with human technology and human tenacity. For that we ought to stand up and cheer. But let us apply all this to the gospel.
Spiritually we were all at the bottom of the mine--closed up in the darkness without any hope of life. We have all felt like that sometimes. We have felt tired and alone and hopeless. The world seems gray and dark. We ask, Is this all there is? There must be something more. There must be something that makes life worth living. We sense that we need God. God's power would bring light and meaning our lives. God would restore the magic to living. But we are buried in the cave, separated from God by tons of rock. We feel like we have dropped into a black hole of depression and we struggle, we flail around, but it does not seem to matter.
We feel like our very soul is dissolving in the blackness of our lives. And it is, it really is, because a soul separated from God dies. Without God, our soul, the better part of us, shrivels and dies. But it does not have to be that way. Yes, spiritually, we are like lost miners buried half mile underground with no hope of survival, but the gospel is that rescue is on the way.
John 3: 16 is sometimes called the gospel in a nutshell. In fact, I heard a story about a professor in seminary who had a walnut on her desk. If you opened up the walnut, inside there was a little piece of paper with John 3:16 written on it. Obviously she was making a point. Probably most of you have memorized this verse at one time or another, and then probably forgotten it, just like you and I forget most of the other stuff we memorize. Makes you wonder about memorization does it not?
In any case, if there is one verse in the Bible that people have heard of, it would be this verse, and that is probably good. Let us look at this verse for a few minutes.
The first thing we should say is that this verse is about love. It begins, “For God so loved the world.” We could preach a sermon on that little word “SO.” It describes the extent to which God loved us By the way, the word “world” is clearly not referring to the natural world. John is not talking about rocks and stones and mountains and seas. He is talking about people, about you and me. God loved all the people of the world That is amazing. You would think that the creator of the world would only be concerned about big things, star systems and galaxies and stuff like that, but this verse tells us that God is concerned about individuals, like you and me. God loves you. God loves me.
The word “so” describes the intensity of God's love for us. God loved us so much “that he gave his only begotten Son.” That is how much God loves us. The most beautiful theme in all of Scripture is the love of God. God’s love is altogether wonderful and altogether beyond our comprehension. It is a love that grabs us and holds tight to us and will not let us go. Paul tells us that he was “compelled” by this love. “For the love of Christ compels us,” he writes in Second Corinthians 5:14. This New Testament word “compel” means literally “to hold together” or “to grip tightly.” Paul is basically saying, “I was arrested and incarcerated by this love.” Before he met Christ on the Damascus road, Paul was in much the same condition of those lost miners. He was wandering in darkness, but God's love grabbed him, caught him in a vice-grip, and now his life, Paul's life, is completely out of his control. Paul seems to be saying, “I am a slave to a love that is beyond my imagination. The love of God has taken hold of me, and I am no longer my own.”
We understand from the Scriptures that the Godhead is comprised of three distinct Persons--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--who abide in such incredible unity of heart and purpose and understanding that they are said to be One. Their oneness is so complete that we do not have three Gods, but one God. This is the mystery of the Trinity. What force would be so great that it would weld three eternally self-existent Persons together into such a cohesive unity that they call themselves One? There is no physical force in our universe that can do that. But there is a force that is greater than the gravitational pull of the most powerful star. That force is love. Love binds the Trinity together.
And love binds us to God. Imagine this: the Father’s heart is drawn to you with the same intensity of passion with which the Father loves the Son. Love is that awesome force that has pulled the Son into the heart of the Father, the Spirit unto the Son, and the Father unto the Spirit. This same force that joins the Trinity together reaches out to you to embrace and enfold you. That is incredible. This immeasurable love of the three has reached out to pull in a fourth--you!
Even as Nebuchadnezzar looked into a flaming furnace centuries ago and saw the form of a fourth person in the fire (Daniel 3:25), so too there is a flaming furnace of eternal love into which the angels now look, and they see the form of a fourth, and that fourth is the bride of Christ, which is the church. All the cherubim and seraphim gaze with rapt wonder as they behold the form of another in that eternal furnace of divine love, and this fourth person is you.
So let us think for a moment about what God has done. God through Jesus has given us the greatest gift of all the ages. I heard about a gem dealer who was strolling the aisles at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show when he noticed a blue-violet stone the size and shape of a potato. He looked it over, then, as calmly as possible, asked the vendor, "You want $15 for this?" The seller, realizing the rock wasn’t as pretty as others in the bin, lowered the price to $10. The stone has since been certified as a 1,905-carat natural star sapphire, about 800 carats larger than the largest stone of its kind. It was appraised at $2.28 million.
Wow that was some gift for only $10. In the gospel we have a greater gift than that, given by the lover of our soul, given freely to us. It is the gift of everlasting life, but we need to accept this gift.
Back in 1830 George Wilson was convicted of robbing the US. Mail and was sentenced to be hanged. President Andrew Jackson issued a pardon for Wilson, but he refused to accept it. The matter went to Chief Justice Marshall. "A pardon is a slip of paper," wrote Marshall, "the value of which is determined by the acceptance of the person to be pardoned. If it is refused, it is no pardon. George Wilson must be hanged."
2,000 years ago Jesus the Christ, issued a pardon to you and me. However, just like the case of George Wilson, the value of the pardon is determined by the acceptance of the person to be pardoned, namely you and me. If we refuse it, it is no pardon. We don’t have to accept Christ. We can refuse. But that would be the dumbest thing ever done by a human being. That would be like one of those miners refusing to ride the capsule up to safety. It would be like one of those miners saying, I want to stay down here in the dark and cold and starve to death. Of course none of the 33 miners did that. They were not that dumb.
Christ is offering us a rescue from the blackness of sin, for the loneliness of selfishness. Do not be so dumb as to refuse him. John 3:16 says, “whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Believe in the lord Jesus Christ. Have faith in Jesus and you will be rescued.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
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