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It was dusk on a snowy afternoon in 1982, when Air Florida's Flight 90 took off from Washington, D.C with five crew members and 74 passengers, including a 46-year-old bank executive from Atlanta.
Seventy-three seconds after takeoff, the aircraft slammed into the 14th Street bridge, and plowed into the frozen Potomac River, with only the tail section of the aircraft remaining afloat. Three men and three women clung to their lives in the freezing waters, fighting hypothermia during the 22 minutes that passed before the arrival of a National Park Service helicopter.
A bank executive was the first to have a rescue line dropped to him, but he refused safety for himself and placed the line around another passenger. When the line was dropped to the banker again, he once again secured it around someone else. Five times he made a conscious decision to put the lives of others ahead of his own, knowing the threat to his own life increased with every passing moment. Then, when the helicopter returned to reel in the hero, after delivering survivor No. 5 to shore, the rescuers found he had slipped out of sight into a watery grave.
Another man at another time gave up His life so that others would live but, rather than praise and encouragement for his selfless sacrifice, he experienced only jeers and insults. His own Father did nothing to stop it and even had a hand in the planning of His own Son's death.
This hero is Jesus Christ, His Father is God, and we are told His death was planned "from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8). Jesus had to die because it was a matter of survival for humanity. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:16-17).
The Bible shows death comes to everyone (1 Corinthians 15:22), and is the cessation of life and consciousness, with no power or ability to exist again. It is not an altered state of life in heaven, hell or purgatory: “…the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten" (Ecclesiastes 9:5).
Sin has enormous consequences and is the total destruction of life: “Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Romans 5:12). All humans would permanently cease to exist if it were not for the heroic self-sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Only Jesus Christ can nullify its effect (Romans 6:23), as He was "without sin" (1 John 3:5), and possessed the authority to reclaim people from death. Before bringing Martha’s brother back to life Jesus proclaimed: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live" (John 11:25).
Jesus Christ, the Word, existed in the beginning "with God" and "was God" (John 1:1). "All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made" (John 1:3). Jesus was the One who created this earth, the universe and humanity (Hebrews 1:2; Colossians 1:16). As mankind's Creator, Jesus is worth more than the total of all the lives He has created.
John 3:16 tells us that the Father planned this eternally powerful sacrifice of His Son out of love from earth's beginning, and says to those who have, through Christ, left behind the curse of sin, "I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters" (2 Corinthians 6:18). The literal fulfillment of this statement—that we will become children of God—will come to pass in the resurrection at Jesus Christ's return (Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 15:21-23).
God and Jesus were willing to pay the supreme sacrifice to secure a loving, personal relationship with us (Philippians 2:6-8). Christians assemble every spring on the Passover to commemorate Christ's courageous, loving sacrifice. Of the bread, Jesus said, "...Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me" (1 Corinthians 11:24). Concerning the wine, He instructed, "...Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:27-28).
Jesus chose to die for each of us in a decision of pure love made with His Father. If They are willing to pay such a price to gain a relationship with us, what are we willing to do to have a relationship with Them?
The Good News Magazine (Mar-Apr, 1997)