In early January the youth group went to Ponderosa Camp in Larkspur, CO for their annual Summit Winter Camp. It is a short camp but always an edifying camp for the youth and the leaders. This year the speaker was Acton Bowen. He is a widely published author, a preacher and teacher from Alabama. He did a fantastic job teaching us how we must decrease so Jesus may increase in our lives. The highlight of his talks was his stories. He was a terrific story teller. The last story he told however, was the most impactful. I would like to share this story with you because it has made an impression on me and has given me a deeper understanding of the incarnation of Christ Jesus.
Acton met this man (let’s just call him Jim for the sake of the story) at a diner. He was a former black ops guy for the military. Acton was sitting across from him sipping his coffee and asked Jim to tell him a story that would blow him away. So, Jim began to tell a story with some details left out because of the classified nature of the mission, and this is the story…
The country was the sort of country that the US has no diplomatic ties. If you went over there and got caught with a bible, you were pretty much either dead or in prison, and there was nothing the US government could do. Four US missionaries, however, took that chance and a week into their missions’ trip they were abducted by a highly trained and powerful terrorist group. The men were all taken to a remote site in the middle of the desert and put into an underground bunker of sorts. There they sat for over three years. There were no toilets, no showers, no amenities at all. Just imagine the smell and the conditions. They were fed only bread and water once a day, just barely enough to keep them alive.
After a while the guards became bored with watching these men, so they decided to play a bit of a game with them. A man would open the door to the underground bunker and yell down, because they would never descend into the filth that was below, “Americans! Someone is here to rescue you. You may come up and leave!” Ecstatic, the men ran up the stairs and exited the compound and as they were searching for their rescuers they quickly discovered that there were none. The guards then mercilessly beat them within an inch of their life. This same ‘game’ was played with them repeatedly until one day the men made a pact with each other. They decided that the next time anyone came down to rescue them they would stay put. They would lock arms, look down and not move. They didn’t want to play the game anymore.
After the years went by their situation was taken on by a branch of the military that Jim was enlisted in. He was on the rescue team. Their orders were this: Fly into the hotly contested area in a black hawk helicopter. Zip line down to the compound. Extract the Americans. All in 5 minutes. If it could not be done in 5 minutes they must abort.
It was time, the helicopter fired up and they began their trip to the compound. They reached the compound, zip lined down, and made their way to where their intelligence told them the Americans were being held. He reached the door and lifted it open. The smell. Oh the smell. Several of the men on the rescue team began to vomit. After the initial shock they continued the mission. Jim shouted down into the bunker. “Gentlemen, we are Americans! We are here to rescue you! Come on! We have to go NOW!” The men didn’t move a muscle. They locked their arms tight and stared down at the floor of filth. Again, Jim shouted… nothing. No movement. Jim’s earpiece then voiced that it was time. Their 5 minutes were up. They had to go. Jim was devastated. He shouted down again, “Guys, if you don’t come now we have to leave you! Please come!” Nothing. No movement. Jim’s earpiece chirped again, “Abort, enemies in pursuit.” They had to go. Jim turned to leave. But something tugged him back. He could not leave these men down there in all that filth. So he turned, against his orders, and began to climb down into the bunker. Knee high is human waste and whatever else it was Jim knelt down next to one of the men and whispered in his ear. “I am here to rescue you. Please come right now.” The man’s eyes lifted. He then said, “Ok, we will come.” The others began to protest. “You know this is just another trick! We can’t go!” But the man said, “This man came down here in our filth. None of them would ever do this. He is really here to rescue us.” The men all widened their eyes in joy and hope and began to climb the stairs with Jim. They made their way to the helicopter and were saved.
This is a pretty powerful story. One that sounds a bit familiar. Jesus Christ did the same thing for us. We were once trapped in a bunker filled with our own sin. There was no hope, no sign of real rescue. Until one day He came down and lived with us. He came down and experienced the result of being held captive by our own sin.
He came down to rescue us and to bring us into a new life. I pray that this story has given you a deeper understanding of Jesus’ rescue mission and His love for us. He loves you so much that He would live among the wretched and die a death we should have died so that we might experience eternal life. I pray you will never take for granted the great things He has done for us.
Blessings, Pastor Scott