Sons laid down their lives

Something heartbreaking happened to a family at Black Point at Easter two years ago.

Black Point is an isolated place, accessible only by four-wheel drive, on the south coast of Western Australia, and the Stallard family travelled there to fish. The parents, Ron and Debbie, lived in the south-west of the state, but their two sons, 25-year-old Paul and 19-year-old Andrew, lived in Perth. So the fishing trip was something of a family reunion too.

But it all went terribly wrong on Easter Saturday while the family was fishing from the rocks. Debbie slipped and fell into the sea, and a wave swept her out.

Paul immediately dived into the water to help his mother. He managed to get hold of her, but he was unable to bring her back to the shore.

Andrew also dived in to help. But even together, the two sons could not counter the current. They could not bring their mother back to safety.

Ron threw a rope to his family. His sons caught it and began to tie it around their mother. But before they could secure it, a wave crashed over them, ripping the rope from them, and sweeping them further out to sea.

Ron ran for help and found a fisherman who radioed the State Emergency Service. When he returned, his family was gone, gone out of sight, gone out of this life.

Debbie’s body was found by police rescuers later that day. Andrew’s body was found the next day. Paul’s body has not been found. (See reports in The Australian and The West Australian on 21/4/03.)

Who can comprehend Ron’s anguish as he saw his family in the water and perceived his inability to help them? Who can comprehend his sorrow at their deaths?

Perhaps, in years to come, he will find consolation in his sons’ courage and love. Oh, what courage they displayed in their attempt to save their mother! Oh, what love they demonstrated towards her!

The tragedy is that their courage and love counted for nothing against the sea. As strong as they were, the swell was stronger. They were unable to save their mother. They were unable, in the end, even to save themselves.

Something heartbreaking happened to a family at Black Point at Easter. And as I thought about it, I found myself thinking about another heartbreaking event at another place on another Easter. For the sacrifice of that father’s sons reminded me of the sacrifice of the Father’s Son.

The Bible teaches that, spiritually speaking, we have all gone to Black Point and we have all slipped and fallen into deep waters. We are all floundering in our sins. We are all being washed further from the shore by the back-swell of our wrongdoings. We are all in need of someone to save us before we are overwhelmed by depravity, guilt and judgement.

Seeing us in our distress, God the Father sent his Son to save us.

His Son laid aside his eternal glory, and entered into our humanity to become the man Jesus. Jesus’ sole purpose in coming to earth and becoming a man was to rescue us from the power and the penalty of our sins.

Just as Paul and Andrew laid down their lives for their mother at Easter, so on that first Easter “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16). And, again like Paul and Andrew, Jesus was moved by love and acted with valour.

The similarities between Ron’s sons and God’s Son are striking. But so, too, are the differences.

Firstly, Jesus’ death was not accidental. It did not occur because of some unforeseen circumstance or some tragic miscalculation. Rather, it was a necessary and intended part of the rescue. Jesus did not try to save himself in the process of saving us. He knew all along that our rescue would cost him his life.

Secondly, Jesus’ death was not in vain. He did not make a valiant but ultimately futile attempt to rescue us. He succeeded in his attempt. He came expressly to make an exchange: his death for our life. And by his death, he settled our debt to God, thereby opening the way for us to be reconciled to God.

Thirdly, Jesus’ death was not final. Within three days of his crucifixion and burial, he rose again. His soul was restored to his body, and his body was restored to life and health. His resurrection demonstrated that his Father had accepted his sacrifice on our behalf.

Long ago, King David said, “The waves of death encompassed me, the torrents of destruction assailed me … In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I called … He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters” (2 Samuel 22:5, 7, 17).

Those who trust in Jesus can say the same thing today. For it is by the nail-scarred hands of his Son that God reaches down to draw us out of the deep waters of our sins when we call out in repentance and faith to him.

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