by Tad Lindley
In Helmand Province, Afghanistan on February 9, 2008. Matthew Croucher and three other British Marines were on a reconnaissance mission. While going through a building, they triggered a trip wire grenade. In the split second that the men realized what had happened, a thought went through Matthew Croucher’s mind, “We can all die, or one of us can sacrifice himself by falling on this grenade so that the others may live.” Croucher threw his own body onto the grenade thereby saving the lives of his fellow Marines. No soldier would ever expect to survive such an event, but miraculously, Croucher did, with only a nosebleed and perforated eardrums!
Get a blank piece of paper and a pen. Draw a two inch square in the middle of the page. At the top of the page write, “People I Know”. Keeping the two inch square blank, give yourself five minutes to write down the names of as many people (living or dead) that you know or have even heard of. Go ahead write, and I’ll wait for five minutes until you are done. No, don’t read ahead, take five minutes to write, trust me, the newspaper will wait for you. (Oh and in case you think to ask, yes, you can write Jesus down on your list.)
Narrowing it down
Now you should have a two inch square of blank paper surrounded by a whole bunch of names. Think about the people whose names you have written down. Would you die for them? Write down the names of the people who you would be willing to die for in your box. Go ahead and do that before you read on.
Turning up the heat
You now have some names in your box. If you have children, most likely their names appear there. Perhaps you have listed other friends and family members. Now I want to think about this: If the death you would have to die for them would be extremely violent and painful, that you would be tortured for 20 hours, would you still do it? Look at the names inside the box. At this point you can cross some of them off if you wouldn’t allow yourself to be tortured for them.
Who’s not in your box now?
My suspicion is that you might have rethought your willingness to die for some of the folks in the box once you understood that it wasn’t going to be a painless IV-drug-overdose-while-you-sleep kind of death, or an instantaneous falling-on-a-hand-grenade kind of death. Don’t feel bad if you crossed some folks off, or if you have only a few names in your box, because the Bible says, For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man some would even dare to die (Romans 6:7 NKJV). In other words, when it comes down to it, most people aren’t willing to give up their lives to save most other people.
Who’s in Jesus’ box
Jesus did this same exercise, but he actually carried it through. He studied humanity, present and future, and committed to suffering 20 hours of torture followed by a slow and painful suffocation on the cross. The crazy thing about it is that he didn’t just do it for good people, he did it for all people. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 NKJV) Not a one of you had Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, or Andrew Jackson in your short list of those you were willing to die for. In fact you might wish you could step back into history and kill them before they did their unthinkable evil; none of us would die for them. But Jesus did (please understand I am not saying that these men were saved, but they could have been, had they turned to Jesus), because everybody’s name is in Jesus’ box. In fact Jesus stepped forward in time and died for you while you were still lost.
Why would Jesus do it? Why would he, as God manifest in the flesh (I Timothy 3:16), let himself be tortured, spiked onto timbers and hung up naked before men to save sinners? The answer is found in Hebrews 12:2: Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. The joy that was set before him refers to the chance that through his suffering and death on the cross many would be saved from every tribe and nation.
If you are presently outside the ark of salvation, now is the time to repent and turn to Jesus, to be baptized in his name for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), and to receive the Holy Ghost. Jesus died once for all sinners, so that through him we might be saved. He fell on the hand grenade of sin for us and rose up from death and hell, so that we too might rise up in newness of life!
Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.