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Thursday, 13 January 2011

Greater love hath no man than this

It was 2.00 pm on Monday 10th January in Toowoomba, Queensland, when Donna Rice was driving two of her children, Jordan 13 and James Blake 10, on their way - just minutes away - from picking up a third brother, Chris. It was not raining heavily – its seemed sort-of-safe to travel. They were on their way to celebrate Jordan’s birthday that evening with a party. However, the car became stuck in the waters near the intersection of James and Kitchener Sts. The water was only up to the car wheels, when the engine stopped.

The local courier-mail goes on with the story . . . .

After making a 000 call, the local emergency services told Donna to stay put ‘til they were rescued. Soon the water was flooding through the doors, so Jordan and his ten-year old brother Blake responded to the desperate cry of a mother, doubtless something like: “Quick, get on top of the car: it’s the only way!”

Bystanders looked on until a truck driver - a ‘good Samaritan’ - went to save them. He wrapped some rope around himself and jumped in. The anonymous saviour went to grab the older boy first, but Jordan had other ideas: 'Save my brother!' he said. So, the truck driver rescued Blake first. But then, as he returned to get the other two, who were clinging desperately to a tree . . .

Young Jordan was “a good kid who loved music and drawing, a very quiet kid,” said his father John Tyson. He saw the floods rising around him and knew there was danger, especially as “he couldn't swim and was terrified of water! I can only imagine the fear coursing through his body.'' Tragically, Jordan lost both his footing and the haven of the tree to which they were clinging. Donna tried to grab Jordan as he was swept away, but in vain. “Donna just let go, you know trying to clutch at him and they just both drowned,'' his father said.

Jordan's heroic end has captured the hearts of some Queenslanders and Australians on the social networking sites Face book and Twitter, as well as some among the social media services. What explains Jordan’s sacrificing himself for his younger brother, when his deliverer went to rescue him first? He gave his life for him because he loved him.

Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned. KJV Song of Songs 8:7

Jesus referred to his own battle with death in the same way:
Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends. KJV John 15:13
The Psalms, which Jesus loved to read in the synagogue of Nazareth as he grew up, described the coming ordeal He would experience at Calvary, in terms of uncontrollable irresistible water.

A thousand years before it happened, King David (who was also a prophet) predicted in Psalm 69 the Messiah’s sufferings in such terms:

Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul. 2 I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. 3 I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God. . . .

14 Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters. 15 Let not the water flood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me. 16 Hear me, O LORD; for thy loving-kindness is good: turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies. 17 And hide not thy face from thy servant; for I am in trouble: hear me speedily. 18 Draw nigh unto my soul, and redeem it:

The key to understanding why the Bible uses water as a metaphor to describe what was happening around Jesus when he died, is found in 2 Samuel 22:

4 I will call on the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies. 5 When the waves of death compassed me, the floods of ungodly men made me afraid; 6 The sorrows of hell compassed me about; the snares of death prevented me; 7 In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God: and he did hear my voice out of his temple, and my cry did enter into his ears.

The human race is pictured throughout the Bible as a mighty restless sea, which at times becomes highly dangerous and uncontrollable – hence world-wars! It was the mob around Jesus as he hung there, which provided the human ‘flood’ dimension of “the passion of the Christ.” The crowd was composed of, maybe a dozen or more Roman soldiers. Then there were two other condemned criminals, a centurion, and “the people beholding,” with “many women afar off,” whilst the general soldiery also “mocking” throughout. Not to speak of the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees who taunted him: “He saved others; himself he cannot save.” (Matthew 27:42). But, the divine dimension was worse than all this: it made his sufferings unbearable, and it literally broke his heart. The nature of those pains are hidden from us, though reflected in the words of KJV Psalm 22:1

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
These are words which he cried from the cross. The fourth Gospel teaches us that Jesus was the unique Son of His Father, born from eternity and become man: there never was a time that he was not.

The four Gospels record unanimously a description of the experience of the Apostles, to whom Jesus (they claimed) appeared in a new risen body, after His death – now the risen Lord. That event put the seal on His teaching that he had come to this planet to die, to vicariously bear the retribution which our sin and wrong doing deserve. As St. Peter recorded it:

Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: 24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. KJV 1 Pet 2.

He came from his blest throne
Salvation to bestow,
But men made strange
And none the longed for Christ would know.
But O, my friend, my friend indeed
Who at my need
His life did spend.

So, the Apostles invite us individually to thank Jesus Christ for dying for our sins, and to recognise Jesus as our Saviour in that individual way - in the same way that St. Paul did, when he said:
I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. KJV Gal 2:20
Thank him today for being that rescuer, who appears from nowhere, as it were, to save you:

Where is Jordan today? We trust he is in heaven with his heavenly Father, but we don’t know. We leave that to the angels, as Jesus implied we should (Matt 13:49). What we can know is that heaven (which is called in the Bible “eternal life”) begins now:

3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. KJV St. John 17:3.

Jesus is recorded as saying:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. KJV John 5:24

That’s present possession, guaranteed!

This new life gives us confidence in times of acute trial, so we can face whatever life throws at us. This is what King David said, after having confessed his murder and adultery directly to God, his Saviour:

For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him. Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah. KJV Psalm 32: 6-7

Jordan’s life was precious, for it illustrates to us the true meaning of sacrifice!

Jesus calls us o’er the tumult
Of our life’s wild restless sea.
Day by day His sweet voice soundeth
Saying, Christian follow me!

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